Clinton Police investigators now believe the man shot to death in his Morisey Boulevard yard just before he was to leave for church did in fact know his shooter and it “was not a random act,” police said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
The brief statement gives little other details about the homicide, which is still being investigated. Benjamin Cunningham, 56, was found in his 400 West Morisey Blvd. yard the evening of Sept. 16, the victim of fatal gunshot wound. His son Michael and another man, who regularly cut the grass at the residence, were at the residence at the time.
Michael was under the carport retrieving gas for the mower when the suspect reportedly pulled up in a burgundy vehicle and fired a single shot, which Michael heard ring out but did not see the suspect who fired. When he ran around the side of the house, he saw his father on the ground and the vehicle speeding away.
“CPD investigators and SBI agents are currently conducting inquiries and following up on all leads,” the statement, released by Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley, stated. “Investigators are seeking help from the community in solving the case.”
It was approximately 7:15 p.m. Sept. 16 when police and EMS responded to the 911 call from Michael Cunningham.
As emergency responders were en route, Michael talked with his dad, who had just put on his church clothes to go to Saint Pauls Church of Christ. Police arrived in minutes, followed by EMS personnel minutes after that. They tried to revive Ben for nearly half an hour before he was pronounced dead, his son said.
Clinton Police have urged the public for any assistance they can provide in apprehending the suspect responsible for Cunningham’s death. Working closely with agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, police have conducted inquiries and were attempting to locate the burgundy vehicle seen at the residence at the time Cunningham was shot.
The vehicle suddenly pulled out and drove off from the Stetson Street-side driveway, Michael spotting it for a split second.
Michael had been at the home on his “usual rounds,” visiting his father after work and talking for a while about life.
“He was a good guy,” Michael said last week, less than 24 hours removed from his dad’s untimely death. “He encouraged his kids to get their education, he cooked for the church and he sang in the male choir.”
Tilley again urged anyone with information they believe will be helpful in the investigation to share it with investigators.
Anyone with such information about Ben Cunningham’s death is asked to call the Clinton Police at 910-592-3105 or the CPD TIP Line at 910-590-3009. Citizens may also anonymously text information by sending it to 847411 and texting “tipcpd” followed by the information or send photos and other information through the “tipcpd” app for Apple and Android devices.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.