Man described as abrasive, abusive, distant
BY GLENN SMITH
The Post and Courier
MONCKS CORNER - When Coroner Glenn Rhoad got the call Sunday that Gary Douglas had shot two police officers on Connie Lane, his mind quickly flashed to another violent day 12 years gone.
On that very same spot in December 1995, a drugged and despondent Douglas barricaded himself inside his double-wide trailer home with his estranged wife and a shotgun at the ready. He threatened to blow off his head and told a responding sheriff's deputy to back off or he would "drop him" where he stood.
Rhoad, then a lieutenant and hostage negotiator with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, spent 90 minutes speaking with Douglas before the gunman agreed to surrender his weapon and go for a psychiatric evaluation. Douglas told doctors he been distressed because his wife left him and he had grown suicidal. He held a gun to his head at times during the negotiations.
"He couldn't accept being left by women," Rhoad recalled.
Family Court records attest to that fact. Douglas had spent much of the last 12 years embroiled in domestic problems and custody battles, during which two former wives painted a
picture of him as an angry and abusive spouse. Four orders of protection had been issued between 1995 and 2000 to keep him away from one woman or the other.
First wife Connie Douglas accused him on three occasions of pulling a gun on her and threatening her life.
It is unclear if Moncks Corner police officers Lonnie Wells and Marcus Stiles knew anything about Douglas' background when they paid a visit to the 51-year-old's home Sunday afternoon in connection with yet another domestic dispute. Though Douglas was known in his neighborhood as an abrasive, hot-tempered man, his criminal record was sparse, and he had largely stayed clear of the law in recent years.
Wells and Stiles went to Douglas' home to check out a possible abduction after Douglas was seen arguing with his girlfriend at CW Laundromat on U.S. Highway 17A. After they arrived on Connie Lane, Douglas opened fire with a shotgun, and a gun battle ensued.
What happened in those initial moments and what sparked the confrontation isn't clear. The Post and Courier has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to Moncks Corner police, Berkeley County government and the State Law Enforcement Division for tapes of the 911 calls and all police radio communication from the episode. Those tapes have not been made available.
When the shooting stopped, Wells, 40, lay dead. Stiles, 26, was badly wounded and died Monday. Two passengers riding with the officers, a neighbor of Wells and Stiles' girlfriend, escaped injury, as did Douglas' girlfriend, with whom he reportedly has a child.
Douglas died from a gunshot wound after leading sheriff's deputies in a car chase in Wells' stolen cruiser. Douglas was killed by a police bullet, but Rhoad said he doesn't know who fired the fatal shot. Both Wells and Deputy Clifford C. McElvogue shot at Douglas during the incident.
Neighbors on Connie Lane weren't surprised to hear he had run from police. His daredevil driving and penchant for speed were well-known.
About a month before the shooting, Douglas was involved in a crash on U.S. 17A that injured a 71-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman. State troopers faulted Douglas for being inattentive and driving too fast for conditions after he slammed a sport utility vehicle into the rear of the elderly couple's vehicle, a report stated.
An electrician by trade and the father of seven children by three women, Douglas was known in his neighborhood as a hot-headed loner who shot guns in the woods behind his home for sport.
"He didn't speak to anyone," neighbor Shirley Dangerfield said. "He didn't socialize with any of us."
When Douglas and his family first moved to Connie Lane more than 15 years ago, they quickly gained a reputation for leaving trash and debris around their yard and for letting his hunting dogs defecate on other people's lawns, neighbor Ann Crouse said.
Custody battles and dueling allegations marked the years after his 1996 divorce from his first wife, Connie, with whom he had four of his children. In 1997, sheriff's deputies visited his home after Connie Douglas complained that he was not properly caring for his children. Deputies found unsanitary conditions, with dirty dishes filling the sink and kitchen counter, dog feces on the floor, clogged toilets and scant food, a police report stated.
A sheriff's deputy testified about the conditions at a court hearing that led to Connie Douglas receiving custody of three of their children. Douglas had supporters who rebutted the allegations. He had previously submitted affidavits complaining about his ex-wife's parenting skills. He also blamed his previous mental health problems, including the December 1995 barricading incident, on a bad reaction to pain pills prescribed for a work-related neck injury.
Funds to help the families
Additional donation sites were set up Tuesday and a fundraiser was scheduled for the families of slain Moncks Corner officers Pfc. Lonnie Wells and Cpl. Marcus Stiles.
--Club owner Jim Garvalia will host a benefit dinner Saturday at The Kountry Klub, 1909 N. Main St., Summerville. Barbecue chicken plates will be sold at $7.50 each from 1 to 6 p.m. Proceeds, donations and all bar proceeds will be deposited in previously established memorial funds at First Federal of Charleston. Garvalia said a bank representative will be on hand to accept the donations. Call 843-871-6221 for more information.
--Donations may be made in person at any First Federal of Charleston branch or by mail, 206 E. Main St., Moncks Corner, SC 29461. The funds are in the officers' names.
--Donations may be made by PayPal on the Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department's Web site. The address is www.mcrfd.com
. It's a way of giving back to the officers, who were always there to help firefighters, Chief Scott Lee said. Photos of Wells and Stiles e-mailed to the site will be posted.
--There is also a donation bucket at the ATP Gun Shop and Range at 1340 College Park Road in Summerville. A law enforcement sales representative for the business said Monday he has secured donation commitments from firearms manufacturers Glock and Smith & Wesson.