The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office said a 37-year-old Rock Hill man was arrested and charged with murder after a deadly shooting Saturday night at the Lancaster Motor Speedway during Saturday night’s races.
Deputies responded to a shooting around 10:53 p.m. during the last race of the night inside the front gate near the ticket offices. Rodney Cunningham, 53, who was working security, was found with multiple gunshot wounds and received aid. He was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead at midnight, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office said Sunday morning Bryan Terrell Mitchell was taken into custody after an extensive manhunt.
Lancaster deputies had several near misses locating Mitchell, but they tracked him down at the Roselyn Housing Development where they arrested him.
Cunningham’s parents, Willie and Ida, said Cunningham was working security at the speedway that night and was shot after he tried to stop Mitchell, because he was not wearing a wristband to get into the race.
“He done took a precious part of our life,” Willie Cunningham said.
Ida Cunningham told reporter Glenn Counts about the moment she first got the tragic news.
“Then they came and they said, ‘No, he didn’t make it. He didn’t make it, and it hurt; it hurt because all this black-on-black crime got to go,” she said.
The family says Cunningham was a kind soul who helped everyone.
“As a father, I never had to spend one cent on going to the jailhouse getting Rodney out of trouble,” Willie Cunningham said.
Ida Cunningham described her son as a teddy bear and had a message for Mitchell.
“I would ask him, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you take my baby? Why did you take my baby? Why did you allow satan to use you? Couldn’t you have just walked away? Was it that serious, was it?” Ida said.
A large crowd was on hand for the races when deputies responded to the speedway.
“Lots of folks were at the track last night, and a good number of people likely saw some or all of the events leading up to and including the shooting,” Sheriff Barry Faile said early on in the investigation. “We have identified some of them but encourage others who we have not talked with to call the sheriff’s office and tell us what you know. We hope to positively identify the shooter and take him into custody soon.”
The sheriff’s office said that Mitchell was named a suspect early in the investigation. At about 3 a.m. Sunday, Mitchell went to the Scotchman Store at Charlotte Highway and Shiloh Unity Road. Deputies were called to the store but Mitchell had left.
He was spotted again along Charlotte Highway just north of the bridge construction and ran into the woods. Deputies set up a perimeter and multiple agencies were called in to help with the search, including support from an aviation unit and K-9 units.
He was taken into custody shortly before 10 a.m. and did not have any significant injuries, authorities said.
The Lancaster Motor Speedway released a statement about the shooting on their Facebook:
Mitchell’s motive is not known at this time. He was charged with murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
The sheriff’s office said it’s looking into whether Mitchell and the victim knew each other.
No one else was hurt.
The Lancaster Police Department, SLED, the York County Sheriff’s Office, and the South Carolina Highway Patrol assisted in finding Mitchell.
The investigation is ongoing.
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