Ex-Fort Mill mayor grateful he's OK

FORT MILL -- Fort Mill's former mayor, Charlie Powers, was his customary, sociable self Tuesday night when he opened the door for a man exiting a convenience store.

"I said, 'Hi, how are you,'" Powers recalled Wednesday. "That's what I always do."

The man walked out and, as he passed by, shot Powers in the face.

Powers, 68, didn't even see the gun. The man pointed the gun a second time, but it didn't fire. Powers said he doesn't know whether the man decided not to shoot or whether the gun just failed.

The gunman already had shot the John Boy's Valero store clerk before making his exit. She remained in serious condition at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Wednesday.

The former mayor never got into the store. He remembered he didn't go down, but grabbed his jaw and was going to call 911 when a woman and her son pulled up.

"I got into her car, and we went to the police station," he said. "I didn't know where this person was."

Rescue workers arrived and took him to CMC, where he was released about 2 a.m. Wednesday. The bullet entered his cheek and exited his lip but did not shatter bone. The stitches will dissolve and he will not require surgery, he said. He was "pretty tired and sore" Wednesday but said the emotional drain was the worst part.

"I love everybody, and I'm trying to do what I can to make sure everybody knows I'm OK," he said. "I'm just so thankful. I'm hyper over being as lucky as I am."

Powers, famous for attending the scene of nearly every major crime during his 24 years as mayor, said he was "just in the wrong place at the wrong time" on this occasion.

He had been with friends Tuesday night and turned around on his way home to stop at John Boy's for a pack of tobacco, he said.

Powers, dedicated to public service, was a Fort Mill council member before becoming mayor. He retired from the public scene last month after losing a re-election bid in November.

On Wednesday, well-wishers kept the phone lines busy at his home, where family members fielded calls and made sure he got some rest. He wanted to thank all the people who have called, the rescue workers, everybody, saying, "I've had great care. I hope to get out of the house tomorrow," he said Wednesday. "I'm not a homebody. But I don't think they'll let me."

Accustomed to the public eye for three decades, he agreed to media interviews and photos Wednesday but insisted on advance notice.

"I don't want anyone to see me in bed," he said.

While being tended to by his family at home, he'll be able to read the S.C. General Assembly resolution introduced by state Rep. Carl Gullick, R-Lake Wylie, and adopted Tuesday. He didn't know about it until Wednesday. It commends him for his "outstanding achievements as mayor of Fort Mill, his commitment to the citizens of Fort Mill and his support of the business community."

He'll also consider a lifestyle change. He might give up tobacco.