Man shot in French Street parking lot

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By Jenny Hartley

"Call 911. I'm dying."

Those are the words a man shouted across a parking lot on French Street on Wednesday afternoon.

A Masonic lodge, the Lancaster County Clemson Extension office, the Lancaster County Economic Development office, Discovery School and houses surround the parking lot.

A witness, who asked not to be named, said she thought she heard a car backfire.

"Then it went boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and I said, 'That's not a car,' " the woman said.

She went outside and heard the man yell across the parking lot. Then she came back inside her office and called 911.

"I heard seven shots," she said. The gun fire was also heard along Catawba Street at Blackwell Trimnal law firm, said attorney Brian Trimnal.

Police don't have a motive for the shooting, which injured 21-year-old Naquvis Benson.

He was taken by Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he was in critical condition on Thursday, said Lancaster Police Capt. Harlean Howard. He was shot in the lower abdomen and arm.

Detectives look for clues

EMS, Lancaster Fire Department and police officers responded to the scene within minutes after the shooting, reported at 2:06 p.m.

Lancaster Police Sgt. Karl Allen was taking a training course at the nearby Lancaster Emergency Management office and ran across the street to the scene.

Benson could be seen in the driver's seat of a car, talking to emergency workers. He was bleeding.

According to a police department incident report, he first told police he knew who had shot him, but then denied seeing anyone or anything before the shooting.

After Benson was taken to the hospital, officers and detectives searched the parking lot and yard in front of a duplex for evidence. They used small orange cones to mark shell casings on the ground near the back of the Masonic lodge, Howard said.

Detectives also took photographs of Benson's car. The driver's side window was shattered and glass littered the ground. There was blood among the glass and on the driver's seat and door jamb of the car.

Bryan Vaughn, safety and transportation director for the Lancaster County School District, said an employee at Discovery School on nearby West Dunlap Street was outside on her cell phone before the shooting.

"She heard the burst of gunshots," Vaughn said. "She came in and reported it."

The school went on lockdown until dismissal at 3:15 p.m., Vaughn said. The school district planned to use its ConnectEd system Wednesday night to call the parents of Discovery School students. It would relay what happened and explain the protocol the school followed to ensure the safety of its students, Vaughn said.

Witnesses saw car leave scene

According to a police department incident report, a woman said she was leaving her apartment when she heard gunfire. She ran back inside but quickly came back out and said Benson asked her to get his gun from his jacket.

The woman took the gun back to her apartment and hid it under the covers of a bed. It was later recovered by police.

The woman and other witnesses said they saw a faded gray or dark blue car, possibly a Chevrolet Caprice, leaving the French Street parking lot and head toward West Gay Street. It had plain black wheels and dark-tinted windows.

Benson was a victim of a shooting before. He was shot in the neck during a party at a Rock Hill Masonic lodge in 2003 while he was a student at Lancaster High School. He was paralyzed from his shoulders down, but later regained the ability to walk.

Anyone with information about Wednesday's shooting may call the Lancaster Police Department at 283-1171 or 283-1174.

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com