A man known as a top dog breeder in South Carolina was fatally shot during a planned exchange to sell a French bulldog.
Authorities in Lee County say that Lonnie Ray, 76, was at an arranged meeting with a buyer on Monday night at a KFC in Bishopville, some 115 miles north of Charleston. The plan was for Ray to sell the man a French bulldog, but when it was time to do the exchange, the would-be buyer grabbed the dog and started firing into Ray’s car.
“Here he met the gentlemen,” Lee County Sheriff Daniel Simon told local CBS affiliate WBTW. “He had a passenger in the vehicle with him. When they went to do the exchange for the dog, the guy snatched the leash from him and pulled out a handgun and started firing.”
Ray was reportedly rushed to an area hospital, where he died.
According to Simon, Ray’s friend had frequently joined him for these types of meetings, NBC News reported. That friend was not injured.
According to WBTW, there were several people in the suspected shooter’s car that fled the scene.
“They could be charged,” the sheriff told the station. “They’ve been with this person before, during, and after, so they could be charged” with being an accessory to murder.
Simon told NBC News that Ray was considered “probably the best breeder in South Carolina.”
The victim’s daughter pleaded for the assailant to come forward — and for the dog’s safe return.
“Show your face, turn yourself in, save our dogs,” Ray’s daughter pleaded in a video taken by NBC South Carolina Station WIS. “Please, just do the right thing. Do the right thing.”
NBC News reported that the planned sale price was $2,500. The dog has not been found.
French bulldogs are particularly popular and are often targeted for theft. A man who shot pop star Lady Gaga’s dog walker before stealing two of her French bulldogs was later sentenced to decades in prison, and a French bulldog was among the targets of a 2022 crime spree in Washington, D.C.
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