‘By God’s grace’ no one wounded by gunfire in downtown Raleigh, Wake County sheriff says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Cary man is in custody after Wake County deputies said he fired several gunshots into the Wake County Public Safety Center in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday afternoon.

“I mean it was bam, bam, bam, bam like that and I thought it was firecrackers at first, but it was loud, sounded like a big M-80 or something,” said Tim, who did not want to provide his full name.

Deputies said Willie Lee Hayes Jr., 49, drove in front of the center and started shooting around 3 p.m.

“It’s pretty wild. You don’t ever expect someone to show up at the courthouse with a gun,” said Michael Thor, owner of the nearby restaurant Whiskey Kitchen. “I’d be broken-hearted if anything happened to the staff or to the customers.”

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said several people were both inside and out in front of the building at the time of the incident.

“I thank God, which is by God’s grace, not a single person got hit, all were in the line of fire,” said Baker.

Witnesses told CBS 17 they heard anywhere from three to 10 gunshots. The bullets shattered glass.

Flying debris injured one deputy, causing minor cuts, according to the sheriff’s office.

Willie Lee Hayes Jr. in a photo from CCBI

“I was thinking in my mind, ‘Who is psychologically insane enough and crazy enough to shoot a firearm in downtown Raleigh right in front of the courthouse?’” said Tim.

Deputies said they then tracked Hayes to a home on Rose Street in Cary and arrested him without incident.

Construction workers there told CBS 17 they were shocked by the sudden police presence.

“I looked up and about seven or eight cops in full gear are coming up to me telling me to ‘get out, get out, get out’ and all the construction guys I was working for were just running,” said Dustin Keel.

According to court records, Hayes has been arrested more than a dozen times for charges ranging from assault to firing a weapon into a vehicle. Now he faces several more.

“No motive right now — that’s what I want to know,” said Baker.

Raleigh police are taking the lead on the investigation. Cary police and Wake County Sheriff’s Office deputies also helped.

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