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Though the Lancaster Police Department has released only limited information about the shooting death of a man Tuesday night, Feb. 18, the coroner’s office has confirmed the man’s name and cause of death.
Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said Thursday afternoon, Feb. 20, that Ronnel Chelvis Thompson, 21, died from exsanguination, or blood loss, due to at least one gunshot wound.
Morris had been waiting to release the information until Thompson’s family had been contacted and an autopsy was conducted.
On Wednesday morning, Feb. 19, Morris revealed only that a man had been found dead near a Lancaster house.
“I know the police went out to Meeting Street and found one deceased person by a house,” Morris said. “I can say, his death wasn’t natural.”
The one-story home in the 800 block of Meeting Street is located directly across from Springs Memorial Hospital. At least four cars were seen parked outside the home on Wednesday morning.
Despite the information from the coroner’s office, information about the death wasn’t available from the Lancaster Police Department until about 5:10 p.m. on Wednesday, about 18 hours after Thompson was found.
Lancaster Police Department Capt. Scott Grant commented briefly Wednesday on the incident.
“The same stuff that’s already been put out there is what we’re releasing,” Grant said. “Right around 11 o’clock (p.m.), or a few minutes prior, there were several shots fired. There were some patrol officers who heard it and responded.”
Grant said the police department also received several 911 calls about the gunshots.
“Officers responded and found a young man unresponsive,” he said. “He was the victim of a gunshot wound and was unresponsive at the scene.”
The hospital was immediately placed on lockdown due to its proximity to the crime scene, said SMH Spokeswoman Ashley Shannon.
“Any time we feel there might be a threat or perceived threat of the safety of our employees, patients and visitors, we will enact policies and procedures that will ensure or help us ensure the safety of all those who are on our campus,” Shannon said. “Due to the incident, we did decide to do a lockdown that night.”
No one else was injured during the incident and on Wednesday evening no suspects had been identified, Grant said.
“There’s nobody we’re looking for. We’re looking for witnesses. We’re not ready to release any suspect information,” Grant said.
On Thursday morning, after requests from The Lancaster News, Grant released a redacted police department incident report about the death.
“Many of you have made repeated requests for this report, causing me to take time away from the actual investigation to provide it to you. I believe I have already provided any and all information it contains, but nonetheless here it is,” Grant said in the email accompanying the report. “As far as updating the investigation, all I can say is that we are currently still interviewing folks and we are well on our way to getting as clear of a picture as possible concerning what took place. I am confident we will put the pieces together. If I had information to release such as a suspect to be on the lookout for, or a vehicle we need identified, rest assured I would enlist the assistance of the media in doing so.”
The report states two officers were on patrol at 10:38 p.m. in the area of W. Meeting Street and Woodland Drive when they heard several gunshots from somewhere along Meeting Street.
When they arrived at the scene, officers noticed in the driveway a dark-colored SUV with its engine running, though it was empty and had its driver’s side door open.
As they searched the scene, officers found the victim on the east side of the home, but he was unresponsive and “did not appear to be breathing,” the report said.
Lancaster County EMS was called to the scene, while several officers searched for other victims or suspects.
Once the scene was secured, officers lined the perimeter with crime scene tape and also called for assistance from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
The report notes that officers later spoke with residents inside the home and the case was eventually handed over to the police department’s special operations division.
Grant confirmed Thursday that investigators had identified possible suspects in the case, but did not elaborate.
“We have suspects, but nobody we’re looking for,” Grant said.
Grant’s initial comments on Wednesday came about six hours after Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard sent an email statement to The Lancaster News, where she stated she could not provide information about the incident until later that same afternoon.
“I am in a meeting and will not be available until after 2 p.m. Captain (Scott) Grant probably will not be in until then. Hopefully he is trying to get some rest,” Howard said in the statement, sent about 10:42 a.m. “He nor I am prepared at this time to make a statement to the media. I am sure that as soon as it is feasibly possible you will be contacted by Captain Grant or I with additional information.”
Morris did not have information about the specifics of the case, but said he knew the investigation was ongoing.
“Right now I’m not sure about the case, but I know they’re still talking to people and piecing it all together,” Morris said.
Grant asked for help from the public in gathering information about the case. He asked anyone with information to call the police department at (803) 283-1171, (803) 283-3313, or the LPD’s anonymous tip hotline at (803) 289-6040.
This is Lancaster County’s second homicide of 2014, though it’s the only one deemed by law enforcement officials as murder.
During the early morning hours of Feb. 16, deputies found the body of Jimmie Adams, 47, on the floor of an Indian Land home and discovered he had been stabbed, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office press release.
No suspects have been publicly identified in the case and no charges have yet been filed.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416