Former Hardeeville volunteer fire chief shot, killed on Ulman Street

HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - The Hardeeville Police Department is investigating a fatal shooting on Ulman Street that occurred at about 9 a.m. Thursday.

According to police, officers received a call that a person was shot. When the officers arrived on the scene, they found a white male with multiple gunshot wounds inside a vehicle. Later Thursday morning, WTOC was informed that 77-year-old Ernest Martin Stevens has died.

The police chief and county coroner told WTOC that Stevens used to be the volunteer fire chief in Hardeeville.

Police describe the suspect as a black male with short dreads. He was wearing a long, black t-shirt and blue jean shorts.

The Hardeeville Police Chief says he was just with the victim the day before he died.

The crime scene from the shooting includes multiple locations.

"The shooting actually took place in the Argent Center parking lot," said Chief Sam Woodward, Hardeeville Police. "Apparently the deceased tried to get away from the shooter and came to a stop in the Advanced Auto Parts. He was treated by the ambulance on scene. They tried to revive him and transported him to  the hospital where he died."

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is on the way to investigate. A Bluffton Police Department K-9 also assisted.

"Our hearts and prayers  go out to his family and we're going to do everything we can to try to get the suspect. We're going to try everything we've got, that's the reason I've called SLED, that's the reason I've called the dogs. Whatever it takes," said Chief Sam Wood.

His death hits close to home for many in the community.

"He's just a hometown person that everybody knew. We've been knowing him for years. A person that lived right down the street just a few blocks from the police station," said Chief Sam Woodward.

Stevens played a major role in the creation of the Presbyterian Church. We spoke to someone who actually went to high school with Stevens. Stevens and Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls ended up marrying sisters.

Sauls tells us Stevens was a family man who was very involved in his community, church and loved riding his Honda Goldwing.

"It was very difficult," said Sauls. "I was concerned about his wife because she's in the nursing home and of course I was concerned about my wife because she's the person who takes care of her sister. It's always difficult even when I don't know them because I try to help their family as much as I can but when it's your own family it definitely adds a dimension of what one is able to do, I can tell you that."

We spoke to a few residents who were afraid to speak on camera, but they tell us they're seeing an increase in problems related to guns.

Anyone with information regarding someone you saw this morning, you're asked to call police immediately.

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