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South Carolina dog breeder, 76, is fatally shot while trying to sell a French bulldog

Lonnie A. Ray brought along a friend for Monday’s dog exchange, but the $2,500 sale never happened. The shooter took off in a car — with the puppy in tow, Lee County Sheriff Daniel Simon said.
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A South Carolina dog breeder was fatally shot Monday night after a planned sale of a French bulldog went awry, authorities said Thursday.

Lonnie A. Ray, 76, described by the Lee County sheriff as "probably the best breeder in South Carolina," arranged to meet a buyer in the parking lot of a KFC in Bishopville, about 53 miles northeast of Columbia.

As he'd done in the past, Ray brought along a friend for Monday's sale, which was planned online, Sheriff Daniel Simon said. The same companion frequently tagged along for these kinds of meetings, according to the sheriff, who said Ray spoke to the prospective buyer by phone.

Before the $2,500 transaction could take place, at least one person pulled out a handgun and began shooting in the direction of Ray and his friend, Simon said.

The person sped off in a sedan — with the puppy in tow, according to the sheriff. Three or four people were seen in the vehicle.

Officers arrived at the scene and saw Ray on the ground with gunshot wounds, Simon said. It was not immediately clear Thursday how many times he'd been shot. Ray was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead an hour later. An autopsy will be performed Friday morning.

Ray's friend was not injured by the gunfire, according to the sheriff. The stolen French bulldog had not been found Thursday.

The highly-coveted dog breed made headlines in 2021 for its popularity and steep price tags after pop star Lady Gaga's two French bulldogs were violently stolen. Gaga's dogwalker was shot and injured during the robbery. The two dogs were later returned.

South Carolina authorities are reviewing surveillance cameras to determine the identities and potential whereabouts of the shooter and others involved in the botched dog sale.

To reduce future risks associated with transactions conducted over social media, the sheriff's office plans to create a meeting zone that will be housed within the agency's Bishopville location, Simon said.