Police in Delaware are looking for answers after a man and woman in their 80s were gunned down while visiting a veterans’ cemetery on Friday.
Wilmington’s The News Journal reported that the victims, who were married, were visiting the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the community of Bear just after 10 a.m. Friday when police say 29-year-old Sheldon Francis opened fire on them.
The woman, 85, was shot and declared dead at the cemetery Friday.
According to police, the man, 86, was transported to an area hospital in critical condition where he died on Saturday.
Police reported exchanging gunfire with Francis after arriving at the scene after the man fled to a nearby wooded area.
Francis was found dead in the wooded area later Friday afternoon.
The News Journal shared an image of Francis on Twitter.
An 86-year-old Elkton man died Saturday after his wife was killed on Friday. https://t.co/xtI7e2r94r
— Delaware Online (@delawareonline) May 10, 2020
“Francis was located deceased at approximately 4:00 p.m., on the date of the incident, in a wooded area located just off of Brennan Blvd., in the development of Brennan Estates, which is adjacent to the grounds of the cemetery,” the Delaware State Police reported in an update on the incident.
It is not known if Francis died after being shot by police or if he took his own life.
“This wooded area was where an exchange of gunfire between Francis and officers on scene had taken place at approximately 12:08 p.m. Upon being located Francis was confirmed to have sustained a gunshot wound. It is undetermined at this time if the wound was self-inflicted or as a result of the exchange of gunfire,” police said.
The Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery is located just west of the Delaware River and is a short drive from the Maryland state line.
The deceased couple resided in Elkton, Maryland, just a few minutes away.
Francis, meanwhile, lived a few minutes south of the cemetery in the community of Middletown, Delaware.
A witness described the chaotic scene to The News Journal.
A man named James Turner told the newspaper he was in the area just after the call came to police came in.
“There were about 10 police cars out there,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what was going on.”
Turner said he headed to work as the situation unfolded, but came home later to find roads were closed in the area.
He added that his son told him he had heard dozens of gunshots.
“I called him about 1 o’clock and he said he heard 40 to 50 gunshots,” Turner told the paper. “I just told him to hunker down and shelter in place.”
Police eventually brought in armored vehicles and a helicopter before the threat from Francis was neutralized.
There is no word on what might have motivated the alleged shooter to open fire on the couple.
The Delaware State Police said it is withholding the identities of the victims, pending notification of next of kin.
The state police homicide unit has taken over the investigation.
Democratic Delaware Gov. John Carney commented on the situation Friday during his public health media briefing, describing the incident as “heartbreaking,” according to The News Journal.
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