Area law-enforcement agencies are tight-lipped following the discovery of a Hinesville man’s body Dec. 23 on Whaley Street in Jesup and a Christmas Eve shooting at the intersection of South West Broad and Cherry streets that injured three people.
Jesup Police Chief Glenn Takaki said the investigation into the incidents is active, so he cannot reveal much. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has taken the lead in the case and is working with Jesup police and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Takaki would not confirm rumors that the two incidents are related. He said only that the GBI has assigned a team of agents to investigate the death and other agents to investigate the shooting.
Two redacted police incident reports shed little light on the death and the shooting. The death is indicated only in an armed-robbery report dated Dec. 23. According to the document, Sgt. Nick Ellis, Cpl. R.J. Fernandes and Sgt. Tyrone Cromartie were dispatched to 535 N. Hickory St. “in reference to a possible armed robbery.”
A complainant reported that a man had “approached her and demanded the complainant’s purse and cellular phone.” The unnamed complainant’s vehicle also was apparently taken, and police found it at 398 Walker St.
It is not clear how the initial complaint led police to contact Red Hill Tracking owner Bobby Surrency, but the report noted that Surrency saw the body of a “black male lying in the backyard of 548 N. Whaley St., motionless.”
The dead man later was identified as Wendell Lee Jr. of Hinesville.
Mike McDaniel, special agent in charge of the Kingsland GBI office, said his office is investigating the death as a murder case.
In the Christmas Eve incident, police responded to a report of gunshots being fired. While answering that call, Fernandes was notified of a car crash with possible injuries on South First Street, so he responded to that emergency.
“I observed a single vehicle resting against the tree … I then observed two victims outside the vehicle with what appeared to be several gunshot wounds. Next, I observed two other victims inside the vehicle, who also appeared to be shot as well,” Fernandes wrote in his report.
The car contained four people, three of whom were wounded by gunfire. All three reportedly were hospitalized in an unnamed hospital. Takaki said that two of the three victims are in serious condition. The fourth person apparently was not injured.
Police would not disclose the identities of the car occupants, but did indicate that the shooting apparently occurred around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of South West Broad and Cherry streets.
A photo journalist reportedly found shards of glass in the street at that location and two bullet holes in the glass storefront at 105 S. West Broad St. The store is unoccupied.
Fernandes’ report referenced a gray 2011 Chevrolet Malibu with a Georgia license plate. The report said the officer saw “what appeared to be several bullet holes in the rear of the vehicle.”
Takaki confirmed the vehicle had been struck multiple times by gunfire. He said the GBI assumed possession of the car to collect evidence.
Tire tracks, skid marks and damage at the scene indicated the vehicle was traveling west on First Street at the time of the crash. The vehicle apparently traveled across the median and the two westbound lanes of First Street before running into a tree, where it came to a halt.
McDaniel said that nine GBI agents are exploring leads and have worked on the case with local law enforcement beginning Christmas Eve and throughout Christmas Day.
McDaniel echoed Takaki’s assertion that because of the nature of the investigation, little information can be released at this time.
McDaniel and Takaki said that authorities are offering a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the death or the vehicle shooting.