CARTHAGE, N.C. — The wife of the gunman who killed seven elderly patients and a nurse at a nursing home here on Sunday worked at the nursing home, the police said Monday morning.
Although the precise motive for the shooting remains unclear, her employment at the nursing home is the first link to the site of the shooting that investigators have disclosed.
“It is my understanding that he had one wife that he may have been separated from,” said Chief Chris McKenzie of the Carthage Police Department, “but the details as to whether or not she was there or if that was part of the motive has yet to be determined.”
The shooter, identified as Robert Stewart, 45, was apprehended after Justin Garner, the only police officer on duty that morning in Carthage, responded to an emergency call and entered the building alone, exchanging fire with the gunman, Chief McKenzie said at a news conference.
Quoting a neighbor, The Associated Press identified the shooter’s wife as Wanda Luck, who worked at the nursing home as a certified nurse assistant.
Mr. Stewart suffered one gunshot wound to the upper torso, Mr. McKenzie said, and Officer Garner was wounded by three pellets in the foot and leg.
“Whether or not he realizes it now, he will hopefully someday realize how many lives he actually saved,” Chief McKenzie said, speaking of Officer Garner. He added that the police recovered several weapons that the shooter brought into the building.
The shooting began around 10 a.m. at Pinelake Health and Rehab, a one-story brick building with white rocking chairs out front.
The patients were identified by the authorities as Louise Decker, 98; Lillian Dunn, 89; Tessie Garner, 88; John Goldston, 78; Bessie Hendrick, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; and Jessie Musser, 88. All were residents. The nurse was identified as Jerry Avant Jr., 39.
Frances Green, the sister of Mr. Avant, said the authorities believed that her brother was shot while trying to stop the gunman.
“He just lay down his life to protect the residents and employees there,” Ms. Green said. “Unfortunately he lost his life. But he was a hero.”
The A.P. reported that while the authorities declined to comment on a possible motive, Mr. Stewart’s ex-wife from a previous marriage said he had recently been reaching out to family members, telling them that he had cancer and that he was preparing to “go away.”
The ex-wife, Sue Griffin, told The A.P. that she had been married to Mr. Stewart for 15 years. They had not spoken since divorcing in 2001, she said, but he had been trying to call her over the past week through her son, mother, sister and grandmother.
Ms. Griffin said Mr. Stewart had once been a painter. She said she had no idea whether her ex-husband was connected to the nursing home.