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10 S.C. schools locked down after shots fired

Greenville police searched for a gunman who fired on a police officer checking on a suspicious license tag on Friday, causing 10 schools to go on lockdown.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A gunman fired on a South Carolina police officer checking on a suspicious license plate Friday, causing 10 schools in Greenville to go on lockdown.

The schools reopened their doors after a couple of hours and it appears the gunman was able to get someone to pick him up and elude a massive manhunt that went on for hours, authorities said.

Police identified the gunman as 25-year-old Patrick Dean Lowrance and said he was wanted on attempted murder and other charges. They think he might have been wounded when the Greenville officer fired back at him and asked hospitals in the area to be on the lookout in case anyone came in with a gunshot wound.

The shooting happened around 10 a.m. at an apartment complex, police spokeswoman Alia Urps said.

The suspect was able to run into nearby woods. Several dozen officers who happened to be in a training session nearby rushed to help search, along with teams of tracking dogs authorities said.

The shooting happened after an officer checking license plates in a hotel parking lot found that a plate on a GMC Yukon was listed for a Honda, Urps said. When she went inside the hotel to inquire about the driver, the suspect drove off in the SUV. The officer got into her patrol car and tried to pull the suspect over on Interstate 85, but he sped up, and she abandoned the chase, Urps said.

"We do not pursue for minor traffic infractions, and at that point, that's all that we had," she said.

Another officer found the vehicle in an apartment parking lot, and as she approached the building, the suspect shot at her, she said.

The SUV was stolen in a carjacking three weeks ago in a motel parking lot in Spartanburg, a city about 30 miles east, police said.

Lowrance was wanted on warrants for four counts of attempted murder and other charges after he tried to rob a Wendy's in Greenville last Sunday, authorities said.

Investigators said Lowrance came into the restaurant after closing time and demanded that the three workers inside open the safe. The employees told him only the manager had the combination and she was outside.

The gunman forced the workers outside, where the manager was in her car, trying to drive off. The suspect fired at the car, then demanded that the employees go back inside. But they told him the door locked behind them automatically and Lowrance fired his gun again at them as they ran away. No one was injured, authorities said.

After Friday's shooting, four public schools, three private schools, two colleges and a special education center were placed on lockdown.

Schools were locked down in several directions because officers weren't sure where the suspect went.

"This is not around the corner from a school. I don't want to give you that impression. This is several miles from any of our schools," Oby Lyles, spokesman for Greenville County school district, told The Associated Press. "Everybody's fine."

Officials said it was a precaution, and none of the students or teachers appeared to be in danger. Schools began shifting to a partial lockdown after about two hours and the lockdown was lifted entirely by the time the schools dismissed after police determined the suspect was able to escape in a car.

Investigators have reached out to Lowrance's family for help finding him, but police said they haven't been able to provide much assistance.