LONGS, SC (WBTW) – Horry County police are searching for three men who killed a man in a Longs Food Lion parking lot, stole a car and committed several robberies Wednesday night.
The victim in the homicide was identified Friday afternoon as 57-year-old Gerard “Jerry” Celentano by Horry County deputy coroner Michell McSpadden.
“His wife of 29 years tells me he was a loving husband, father, step-father, brother, and a good friend to a great many people,” McSpadden wrote in the press release about Celentano.
The victim had been living in Horry County for about a year and a half but was originally from New Jersey. Celentano died of a gunshot wound, the coroner confirmed.
Captain John Harrelson with the Horry County Police Department says officers were called to the Food Lion, located at 110 E. Hwy 9 in Longs, for a carjacking and deadly shooting. When they arrived, officers were told that a man with a gun confronted a store employee in the parking lot and demanded the employee unlock the grocery store. At the same time, two other armed men confronted a person sitting in a car in the Food Lion parking lot. When the driver attempted to get away from the gunmen, the suspects fired shots into the vehicle, killing the driver.
The armed men then stole a grey in color Nissan Altima with license SC PFP 140 and fled the scene, says Capt. Harrelson. A short time later two other armed robberies occurred in the Loris area – one at the Carolina Inn in Loris, and the other of an individual broken down on Fox Bay Rd.
There is reason to believe that these robberies were also committed by the individuals from the Food Lion incident.
Capt. Harrelson says it’s also believed that the same suspects robbed a store in Chadbourn, NC. It’s believed they were still driving the vehicle stolen from the Food Lion killing.
Harrelson couldn’t confirm if an incident where suspects tried to enter the United Community Bank while armed is related to the other crimes, but said police will “continue to explore that possibility in our investigations.”
According to a police report, officers responded to the Food Lion around 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday. While officers were en route to the carjacking at the Food Lion, they were advised the victim was shot by unknown suspects and that the suspects took a Nissan Sedan and were headed toward Little River on Hwy 9. Responding officers initially went to the front door of the store and made contact with personnel on the scene, who had “secured themselves inside the store for safety measures.” Officers made sure these people were safe and told them to lock themselves inside the store until contacted by law enforcement, the report says. Another officer found a white Chevrolet Cavalier in the middle of the parking lot that appeared to still be running. The officer found a man in the driver seat who appeared to be deceased. Officers secured the crime scene and medics arrived, where they determined the victim was dead.
Officers also responded to the 100 block of Fox Bay Road in Loris around 10:45 p.m. in reference to a strong armed robbery, according to a police report. Upon arriving, officers spoke with a victim who said two people pulled up next to him on the road, exited their vehicle, and demanded his wallet and his phone. The victim said when he refused, a black and silver handgun was pulled and pointed at him. The victim also said a suspect then forcefully grabbed his phone and wallet and fled the scene in a dark in color Dodge Dart with an unknown tag.
Another police report says officers responded to the Carolina Inn, at 312 N. Hwy 701 in Loris, around 11 p.m. on Wednesday for an armed robbery. The victim told officers that while he was sitting as his work station, two people approached him, pointed a gun at him, and demanded money from the cash register. The victim said he handed the two suspects the cash register and the suspects took the money from the register and left the scene. The victim described the two suspects as black males, wearing black shirts, blue pants, and black shirts covering their faces, except for their eyes. The victim also described the gun as a black and grey handgun. On video surveillance, officers observed two people enter the hotel and point a handgun at the victim, the victim hand the suspects the cash register, the suspects take the money and leave the building, and the suspects flee from the scene in a grey in color Nissan Altima.
The Horry County Police Department is asking anyone with information related to any of these incidents to contact us at 843-915-TIPS, or at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you see these individuals or vehicle please do not approach, immediately call 911.