A Rock Hill man released from prison in September is wanted in last Thursday's shooting of a customer at a Cherry Road check-cashing service, the third in a series of robberies and shootings at York County businesses, police said.
Phillip Fleming Watts Jr., 20, whose listed address is a dormitory at Clinton Junior College, was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in the shooting of Ida Neal Lord, 42, of Rock Hill. More warrants are pending, according to Lt. Tim Hager of the York County Sheriff's Office.
Lord, shot in the head and back, remained in critical condition Sunday at Carolinas Medical Center.
Watts, who has relatives in Rock Hill near where the first robbery and shooting occurred, was paroled in September from the S.C. Department of Corrections for an attempted armed robbery that happened when he was a juvenile, according to a sheriff's department flier. Hager would not further discuss his record.
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Watts is 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds, the flier states. He is known to wear a diamond stud earring in his left ear and a pointed goatee. He may have access to a beige or black sport utility vehicle, possibly a Jeep Cherokee.
"If anyone has seen this person, they need to contact law enforcement and not approach (him)," said Capt. Bryan Zachary of the Fort Mill Police Department. "We'd like to see this person taken without further incidents."
Anyone who sees Watts is asked to call either 911, the York County Sheriff's Office at 628-3059 or 327-2021 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-409-4321. Callers remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Fort Mill and Rock Hill police joined forces with sheriff's investigators in the cases last week. The warrant was issued Saturday night, Hager said, and authorities have been searching for Watts ever since.
The first robbery and shooting happened Jan. 28 at Saltwater Seafood Market in Rock Hill. The clerk gave the robber $300, but he still shot her twice, police said. She was released from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
The second occurred Feb. 5 at John Boy's Valero in Fort Mill. In that case, the clerk gave the robber money and he then shot her. The robber also shot former Fort Mill mayor Charlie Powers, who unwittingly opened the door for the robber as he left the store. Powers is back at work. That clerk was listed in fair condition Thursday and was no longer at CMC on Sunday, according to a nursing supervisor.
Lord was shot as she tried to wire money at Cash on the Spot near Heckle Boulevard and South Cherry Road. The shooter grabbed her as she approached the customer service counter, shot her and then demanded money from the business. He left without taking the money.
"There are similarities that are being looked at by all agencies involved," Hager said of the shootings.
In each case, the shooter was black, wore dark clothing and was described as being in his late teens or early 20s and approximately 6 feet tall.
Zachary said Sunday Fort Mill police also have an interest in Thursday's shooting. "The sheriff's office has probable cause for an arrest warrant," Zachary said, "and that speaks for itself."
Rock Hill police Lt. Jerry Waldrop said Sunday his department does not have enough information yet "to determine if he is a suspect in our case. Everything we have now hinges on the county's case."
Watts is a Rock Hill native who enrolled at Clinton in January, said Robert Copeland, vice president for student affairs. Police have been on campus asking questions, he added, but college officials were not certain why.
Watts is a loner who has several girlfriends and may go by the name "Philly," police said.
"We want everybody to be vigilant in doing things that keep them safe," Zachary said. "Our primary concern is for victims who have suffered so far, but we are concerned for the potential he (the robber) has to commit more crimes on the citizenry."