Parkway terror: Radio personality in critical condition after shooting
What was supposed to be an idyllic sunset excursion turned to horror for a Charlottesville man well known to listeners of WNRN radio and an 18-year-old female friend.
The pair–- Tim Davis, 27, also known as DJ Prolapse and host of the Boombox hip-hop show, and a Fluvanna County High School senior who used to volunteer at the station–- had gone to the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the sunset on Monday, April 5, when they were attacked by a shotgun-wielding man at Rock Point Overlook at approximately 7:30pm.
Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher, who is leading the investigation, has asked the media not to name the woman because the gunman remains on the loose and may wish to harm the best witness of her attacker, even though the attacks appear random.
The victim's brother, Scotty, says the attack on his sister and her friend was sudden and unexpected.
"She looked at [Davis], and there was blood on his face," he says. "He was groaning."
The gunman then exited the car and approached his victims. Scotty says his sister–- though wounded by a shotgun blast–- scratched the gunman and tore at his shirt with such tenacity that she broke some fingers, before he pushed her over the embankment and began to hurl rocks down upon her.
"She ducked down and pretended to be dead," says her brother in a telephone interview conducted on Tuesday, April 6, minutes after he'd finished visiting with his older sister in her hospital room at UVA Medical Center, where she was recovering from two skull fractures and a collapsed lung.
The shooter having stopped his rampage, Scotty says, his sister climbed back up and, screaming, flagged down a vehicle driven by a husband and wife, who called 911. As they raced away to find rescuers at the Parkway's Afton Mountain intersection, according to Sheriff Fisher, the drivers of that vehicle–- a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up–- believed the shooter fired as they sped northward, but no signs of shots were found when investigators examined the vehicle.
Davis' rescue took longer. Like his female friend, he, too, was shot in the back–- perhaps by a single blast, says the sheriff–- and then tumbled over the edge of the overlook.
"He was between 100 and 200 feet down," says Curtis Sheets, chief of Wintergreen Fire and Rescue, who reached Davis around 8:15pm–- approximately 45 minutes after the shooting. The terrain, says Sheets, is rocky with sharp drop-offs and steep slopes, much of it covered in thick brush.
When rescuers finally reached Davis, Sheets says, they found him unresponsive with injuries, in addition to his gunshot wounds, apparently sustained from the fall. Rescuers placed Davis in a basket and carried him back up to the Parkway, Sheets says. He was airlifted to UVA Hospital where he remained in critical condition on Tuesday, April 6. Sheriff Fisher says Davis has been unable to give a statement.
Sheets says the steep terrain wasn't the only difficult part of the rescue; knowing that a gunman was on the loose was frightening.
"I was definitely uneasy," Sheets recalls, noting the presence of 29 police vehicles from various jurisdictions offered some comfort.
The FBI has reportedly joined the Augusta Sheriff's Department, the National Park Service, Virginia State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the manhunt for the shooter, who is described by law enforcement as between 50 and 60 years old, of medium build, with gray hair. He was reportedly driving a red car, possibly a Ford Taurus.
Back in Charlottesville, those who knew the pair are in shock.
"He's a lot of fun, an affable guy," says Davis' boss, WNRN founder Mike Friend, describing Davis–- who sometimes uses a wheelchair to deal with his muscular dystrophy–- as "always willing to help."
The young woman is "very nice and peaceful," says brother Scotty. "She has no enemies."
Although just a small parking lot nestled beside the Parkway in Augusta County, Rock Point Overlook, at an elevation of 3,115 feet, has a distinctively large boulder and offers western views that would have provided attractive sunset viewing on the fateful Monday evening.
The Augusta County Sheriff's Office issued a press release mid-morning Tuesday indicating that the victims had been in a green Honda (a Civic belonging to the female victim), which was recovered (along with a wheelchair) at the overlook.
In recent years, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains have suffered a spate of horrific incidents. In 1996, two young women were killed at their campsite near Skyline Drive in a still-unsolved killing. More recently, 22-year-old UVA graduate student Lizzy Hafter was slain at the nearby Greenstone Overlook in a senseless-but-solved 2008 property crime. And just this past August, two Virginia Tech students were inexplicably murdered at a Jefferson National Forest campground.
Five days before this Parkway shooting, the Washington Post published a story noting that the so-called Colonial Parkway murders from the late 1980s are getting a reexamination by investigators. Authorities have not publicly drawn any connections between these cases, or the sensational Morgan Harrington murder and Route 29 Stalker cases, but for lovers of the great outdoors, an arrest can't come too soon.
Anyone with tips is urged to call Central Shenandoah Crime Stoppers at 800-332-2017 or the Augusta County Sheriff's Office at 540-245-5333.
Clarification: Flickr credit of Tim Davis photo was omitted in original post.