DACULA - One man is dead and another critically injured following a bloody shootout Wednesday morning in Dacula near Hamilton Mill, an incident some residents said rocked their sense of security.
The double shooting ended about 8:45 a.m. in the 3600 block of Braselton Highway near Jim Moore Road, across the highway from Duncan Creek Park. It's unclear where it originated.
Witnesses at the scene said the skirmish began at Duncan Creek's skate park and spilled to a medical complex five lanes of traffic away.
Covered in a white sheet, the deceased man's body lay in the parking lot of the DaculaDoctors.com building Wednesday morning, as crime scene investigators took stock of bullet casings and onlookers accumulated.
Police did not immediately identify the two white males who were shot. Evidence at the scene suggested nobody else was involved, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.
Both men were found lying on the asphalt, shot multiple times. The survivor was transported to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Schiralli said the motive is unknown.
"Right now, we're trying to determine what, where, when, why," he said. "I can't say where they were coming from."
Jennifer Trudeau, a dental assistant who works in the building's lower level, said the complex houses dentists, physical therapists and other medical staff. The businesses remained open Wednesday but were not accepting patients, she said.
Trudeau heard three loud pops but didn't suspect a daylight gun battle.
"I thought it was something pelting against the window," she said. "What a mess."
The bloodshed bothered nearby residents who said they'd moved to the fast-developing area - a puzzle of cities in northeastern Gwinnett - for its high standard of living and good schools.
Sloan Roach, Gwinnett Public Schools spokeswoman, said no schools in the area were affected by the incident.
"It makes me angry because we pay a lot of money to live in this area," said Valerie Miller, whose two children were in classrooms less than two miles from the scene. "It makes us question whether or not we made a good decision."
Miller forbids her teenage son from frequenting the skate park, where he's been offered everything from marijuana to cocaine, she said.
Officials called the park a secure haven for active types and nature buffs.
The park was designed for maximum safety and visibility, with most facilities near the busy roadway and within sight distance of a county fire station, said Phil Hoskins, director of Gwinnett's Department of Community Services.
"I think our park police and police as a whole have done a very good job patrolling it," said Hoskins. "It's not in an area that's secluded and certainly not unsafe."
The skate park, billed as the largest in Gwinnett, opened to enthusiasm from extreme sports participants in May last year. It crowns the $7.9 million Duncan Creek Park project, which includes a football field, a specialized playground and a library currently embroiled in a staffing controversy.
Undeterred by the shooting, inline skater Tim Huntley, 17, swooped through the skate park's network of concrete bowls with a buddy Wednesday. The recent Mill Creek grad lives three miles from the park, which he called rife with drugs.
"I see it all the time here - people asking where they can buy drugs," said Huntley, dismissing the inquiries as par for the course. "I've been approached more than once. Some of the locals are pretty shady."
Gwinnett police Cpl. Illana Spellman said 911 call histories show no major incidents reported at the park in recent months. The majority of calls involve suspicious activity or people on the premises, she said.
"Most of (the calls) are reporting juveniles hanging out after hours, or the possibility of juveniles wanting to fight," Spellman said. "Officers have been patrolling in the park on a regular basis every day."