Duo faces judge after 1 killed, 2 others hurt in gas station shootings

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — One gas station employee was killed and two others were injured after police said two men fired shots inside two different Gastonia gas stations Saturday night.

[IMAGES: 3 shot in robberies in Gaston County]

Police said the shootings were about 90 minutes apart.

Authorities arrested 21-year-old Alonte Cousar and 27-year-old Andre Isaac. They both face charges of first-degree murder.

Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon was the only local reporter in the courtroom Monday as the suspects made their first appearance before a judge.

Police said the first shooting happened at the Gray Franklin Express on East Franklin Boulevard around 9:53 p.m.

Officials said the clerk, Tomeka Lynch, was shot several times and was taken to the hospital with critical injuries.

“I just woke up at 10:30 and got a whole lot of phone calls and texts that my friend got shot,” said Michelle Harbison. “When I came in this morning, it was just so surreal.”

Investigators said the same men then went to Zula Express on Ozark Avenue around 11:17 p.m. and shot two employees. One of the victims, Desta Hagos, an East African immigrant, died and the other was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, according to police.

Alexis Moore said her mother will survive only because a customer found her bleeding on the floor and called for help.

"It was like no mercy," Moore said.

Customer Cheryl Martin was moved to tears after learning the employees at the Zula Express were shot.

“They're the kind of people that they were going to foreclose on our house and they offered to buy our house so we didn't have to move,” Martin said. “They don't deserve it. The people across town didn't deserve it either, but they don't deserve it.”

Channel 9 spoke with one of the victims over the phone. He has been released from the hospital and said the employees are like family to members of the community.

The Zula Express is a family-owned business.

“Most times you go to a store and it's just interaction, customer interaction,” a customer said. “These people right here actually care about their customers.”

Bond was denied for both men and officials said the shootings are still under investigation.