(Photo Mike Tripp/The News Leader)
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AFTON — As a 27-year-old man with muscular dystrophy and his 18-year-old female friend enjoyed a Monday night sunset at the Rock Point Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an unknown assailant pulled up in a red car and fired a shotgun blast into their backs, according to the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office.
As the injured Charlottesville man tumbled nearly 150 feet down the overlook, the shooter got out of his car and a life or death struggle between the gunman and the Fluvanna teen took place.
“If she had given up, she might be dead,” Sheriff Randy Fisher said this afternoon.
Authorities continue to search for the suspect.
Fisher said the ordeal began shortly after 7:30 p.m. when the gunman, possibly driving a Ford Taurus, drove his car onto the overlook and shot the two victims as he sat in his car. The sheriff said the victims, who were sitting on a wall with their backs facing the gunman, have been friends for several years.
After firing the first volley, the gunman exited his car. Despite being shot, the teen met the gunman head-on.
“There was a struggle,” Fisher said. “She basically is a feisty lady. She didn’t give up the ghost. She took the struggle to him.”
As the teen fought for her life, Fisher said a man and his wife happened to drive by the scene in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup. That’s when the teen made a dash for the truck.
“The female victim was screaming for help,” the sheriff said.
Fisher said the teen believes a second shot was fired, and the couple who came upon the scene thought their truck might have been hit by a second volley from the shotgun as they tried to speed away. However, a Virginia State Police investigator combed the vehicle thoroughly Monday night and found no evidence that it was struck.
Medical personnel transported the teen to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. Using ropes, pulleys and a stokes basket, it took authorities hours to rescue the second victim, who was airlifted to the Charlottesville hospital. As of Tuesday afternoon, he was listed in serious condition. Asked if his injuries were life-threatening, Fisher said, “He’s in grave condition.”
The suspect is described as a white male with a medium build. Fisher said the suspect is about 50 years old, stands roughly 5 feet, 8 inches tall and has thinning gray hair. He is no longer believed to be in the Blue Ridge Parkway area.
Fisher said the victims did not know the gunman. “At this point, it appears random,” he said.
A green Honda used by the victims was recovered, along with a wheelchair.
The shooting took place at mile marker 10. Initially, authorities on the scene reported there were three shooting victims, but that number was reduced to two early Tuesday morning.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Park Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Virginia State Police and the Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive also are investigating the double shooting.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office at 245-5333 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 322-2017.