Pastor Robert Merritt Jr. has styled hair at his Plaza II business for 19 years.
Things haven’t been without incident at the business office complex on Reeves Street, but he had never seen what he saw when he looked out the window of his business Tuesday afternoon.
Crime scene investigators placed orange cones near blood across the parking lot in front of Yo Way Fashion, a three-year-old business that sells urban wear. Less than 100 yards to the east, a Chevrolet Z71 pickup truck rested after crashing into a brick pillar. A man was dead inside.
Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred around 12:55 p.m. in front of Yo Way Fashion. Dothan Police Cpl. Maurice Eggleston said one person was taken into custody soon after the shooting and police are currently treating the shooting as a homicide, although the investigation remains active. Eggleston referred to the person taken into custody as the store owner or manager and said he was later released, but the investigation is ongoing.
Merritt said he was standing at his barber’s chair while styling the hair of customer Amber Barnes when they both heard what sounded like a loud gunshot. Moments later, they heard what sounded like two softer gunshots. When Barnes looked out the store window, she saw a man standing outside facing the truck. The truck then moved from in front of Yo Way Fashion down an incline and toward adjacent businesses in the office complex. It crashed into the brick pillar, knocking the pillar down before coming to a halt a few feet away from the entrance to Hope School, an alternative classroom that is part of the Houston County School system.
Moments later, police arrived and Merritt said he saw a man in a white shirt being taken into custody.
“I saw a young man with his hands spread out on the police car,” said Merritt, who also pastors All About Jesus Ministry on Blackshear Street in Dothan. “I’ve been out here (at Plaza II) since 1994. Never really saw anything like that out here.”
Eggleston declined to discuss what may have triggered the shooting. He said it is too early to discuss details because evidence is still being gathered.
“Information is sketchy,” Eggleston said.
Soon after police arrived, officers cordoned off a large area of the parking lot near Yo Way Fashion and where the truck came to a stop. Some blood and a handgun could be seen in front of Yo Way Fashion. Officers began interviewing workers and customers at nearby businesses in search of witnesses.
At 2:26 p.m., workers removed the truck from the crime scene for further processing. The deceased person remained in the truck.
Houston County Schools Superintendent Tim Pitchford said about 10 students, a teacher and principal were in the school when they heard gunshots and a crash.
“The teacher looked out and saw what had happened and called 911,” Pitchford said. “Once it happened and they realized it happened right outside the front door they moved to one of the back rooms.”
Pitchford did say some of the parents came to pick up their children, and others who had their own transportation left for the day. None of the students were hurt.
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