Fatal shooting in Rand terrifies residents
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A fatal shooting in Rand left surrounding communities on edge as more than a dozen schools were closed and police embarked on a four-hour manhunt.
Harold Donovan "Don Don" Taylor, 29, was found shot to death in a crashed green Nissan Altima just before 5 a.m. Thursday in the 300 block of Emory Avenue in Rand.
The manhunt ended about 9 a.m. when Kanawha Sheriff's deputies took Tremale Leon Straughter, 29, of Bluefield Avenue into custody for questioning. He was found on Starling Drive in Rand.
Witnesses told Kanawha detectives Straughter used an AK-47 to shoot and kill Taylor. His vehicle was discovered riddled with bullet holes.
Straughter, after hours of questioning by detectives, was charged with first-degree murder.
The men, who grew up together playing football and basketball in the once close-knit community, had been friends, family members said.
"Hate to see senseless killing amongst people who grew up together, amongst friends," said Duke Jordan, Taylor's uncle. "Whatever reason it was, it wasn't good enough to take someone's life.
"You hate to see a life taken. Any life."
Jordan described his nephew as the type of person who would give the shirt off his back to help someone. Jordan grew up in Rand and said even in his day not everyone always got along.
"But they settled their differences then with fists not guns," he said. "That gun didn't kill him. The person that pulled the trigger did."
Neighbors began calling 911 about 4:30 a.m. about noises in the area. Deputies were on their way to check it out when dispatchers told them the residents were reporting multiple gunshots.
When deputies arrived, they found Taylor dead in the driver's seat of the Altima with multiple gunshot wounds and the vehicle riddled with about 25 bullet holes.
Sheriff John Rutherford said witnesses told deputies they saw a Dodge Magnum leaving the area and identified Straughter as the suspect.
"We had information immediately after the shooting, and we had a good suspect and we knew who we were looking for," Rutherford said. "As the day progressed, along with collection of evidence and further information, it led us to make an arrest with a charge of first-degree murder."
A witness told deputies Taylor and Straughter were arguing while stopped in their vehicles on Emory Avenue near the Church Drive intersection, according to a complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court.
The witness said he saw Straughter stick an AK-47 out of his window and fire toward Taylor.
Another witness told detectives that Straughter drove off after shooting Taylor and then came back and fired at him again.
Taylor's vehicle then coasted down Emory Avenue to the next block and crashed.
A witness said Straughter drove around the block and to the intersection of Emory Avenue and Raven Drive, near where Taylor's vehicle crashed, and fired again.
The witness told police he knew Straughter had an AK-47 and had seen him with a pistol in the past, the complaint said.
Deputies found numerous shell casings from large- and small-caliber weapons at the scene.
The sheriff said deputies were searching a three-block crime scene littered with shell casings.
The sheriff's SWAT team was called out to search eastern Kanawha County neighborhoods for the suspect.
Detectives were notified shortly after speaking with witnesses that deputies had pulled over the Dodge Magnum on Midland Drive with Jimeka Straughter, Tremale's sister, behind the wheel. The vehicle had two bullet holes in the side and broken glass in the passenger seat and floorboard.
The sister told deputies she had heard about the shooting and her mother had sent her a message telling her Taylor was dead and "it was Tremale," the complaint said.
She picked him up and spoke with him. She described her brother as intoxicated and said she asked him if he was involved in the shooting and he told her no.
Jimeka said she had dropped her brother off on Glenville Avenue, an alley in Rand, before police stopped her. She told deputies she hadn't seen any shell casings or guns in the vehicle but if she had, she would have "threw it into the river," according to the complaint.
Another witness told deputies he saw both Straughters cleaning out the car and then saw Tremale walk toward the riverbank where he was out of sight for a few moments.
No charges have been filed against the sister. Rutherford told reporters Thursday evening there were no other suspects.
Tremale Straughter is being held without bond at South Central Regional Jail. A preliminary hearing will be held Feb. 22.
The closed schools include Sharon Dawes Elementary, Riverside High School, Pratt Elementary, Midland Trail Elementary, Mary Ingles Elementary, Marmet Elementary, Malden Elementary, East Bank Middle School, DuPont Middle School, Chesapeake Elementary, Cedar Grove Middle School and Elementary, Carver Career Center and Belle Elementary.
Cpl. Brian Humphreys, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the agency had been in contact with Kanawha County Schools on the matter and that officials made the decision first to delay school. Officials then decided to close the schools for the day.
Humphreys said there was concern about school children walking to the bus stop while deputies still were trying to work out the situation.
Deputies will be conducting additional patrols in the Rand area over the next couple of days, Rutherford said.
Anyone with information on the incident can contact deputies at 304-357-0169.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.