Ray Cuvilje and his wife Cassandra were returning from the Walmart pharmacy early Monday morning when their Ford 150 pickup was sent propelling into a telephone pole on N.C. 24 (Sunset Avenue) and gunfire erupted in the street near where their vehicle had overturned.
Cuvilje doesn’t remember much about the accident that injured him and his wife. In fact, a loud noise and some gunfire is about all the injured 56-year-old can recall of the events that began as a traveling gun battle between two vehicles heading into the city limits and ended in the wreck that sent his wife to Wake Med and him to Sampson Regional. They were innocent travelers on the road as an Acura Legend and a white Pontiac roared toward them, the Acura eventually smashing into the back of the truck.
“We were just riding along and the next thing I knew, boom! I really don’t know what happened, I can’t remember,” Cuvilje said from his hospital room Tuesday afternoon. “I was scared, I know that.”
Cuvilje, a volunteer firefighter with Taylors Bridge Fire Department, had been to the Walmart Pharmacy that morning to fill a prescription for his wife who, only hours before, had been at SRMC’s emergency room suffering, he said, from a bout of shingles.
“It’s all a real blur,” Cuvilje said. “I know we got hit and I remember the loud noise, but that’s about all. Oh, and the gunshots, I heard the gunshots.”
The gunshots came from suspects in both vehicles who, after the crash, reportedly continued to fire at one another, with shell casings being strewn along all four lanes of N.C. 24 from about Westover Road to just underneath the U.S. 421/701 bypass where the Acura came to rest sideways in the travel lanes.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Cuvilje recalled, “but I was scared.”
Cuvilje was taken to Sampson Regional where he was treated and released for the injuries he received in the wreck. He was re-admitted to the hospital sometime Tuesday. Hospital officials said he is now in stable condition.
“I’m hurting, I can tell you that,” Cuvilje said. “I just never expected this. I’m a firefighter but I’ve never seen or been involved in anything like this.”
His wife remains in Wake Med’s surgical intensive care, listed now in fair condition. “I’ve talked to her,” Cuvilje said. “I think she’s going to be OK.”
Two others traveling in the Acura are still hospitalized. Another, Joseph Aaron Mack, 25, of 104 Mack Joseph Lane, Roseboro is now behind bars, charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Bail has been set at $225,000.
Police chief Jay Tilley said more arrests are likely. Officers, he noted, are currently out looking for one of the suspects so warrants can be served.
The incident began around 4 a.m. Monday as a dispute started at a back-yard club in Sampson County was taken on the road, with two cars chasing one another into town, reportedly firing shots along the way. As the two vehicles entered the city limits, officers say the Acura plowed into the back of Cuvilje’s Ford truck, the impact of which sent the truck into the utility pole and smashed in the driver’s side of the Legend.
The wreck, however, did not stop the gun battle, which continued between those in the Acura and the Pontiac.
The three passengers in the Acura were taken to Sampson Regional and a fourth subject involved in the incident brought himself to the hospital later Monday morning. The Pontiac, which had left the scene when officers arrived, was found later in the day Monday in Roseboro.
State Bureau of Investigation agents and Clinton police investigators scoured N.C. 24 for evidence and have now processed both vehicles, accumulating, Tilley said, some physical evidence from the cars.
At least three bullet holes were found in the Pontiac and three weapons were seized at the scene.