Local Rotarians describe scene at Homestead
Len Poulin didn’t know anything was going on until a fellow Rotarian at The Homestead this past weekend for a district Rotary conference asked for a dessert left over at his table. “He wanted to know if he could have it to give to his daughter because there had just been a shooting in the dining room, and they had evacuated everybody there before they served dinner,” remembered Poulin, the owner of LBP Enterprises in Downtown Waynesboro, who was among an estimated 120 Rotary Club members from the Greater Augusta area on grounds at The Homestead Saturday night when an employee shot two coworkers and fled the scene on foot.
Authorities are still searching for the shooter, Beacher F. Hackney, 59, of Covington, who is wanted for the murders of Ronnie Stinnett, 60, and Dwight Kerr, 39. Hackney, described as a loner, was last seen heading in the direction of a steep, wooded area across from the resort.
Guests in an adjoining dining room were herded onto a dance floor and apprised of what had happened before being sent to their rooms, but the visitors from Augusta, Staunton and Waynesboro were for the most part shielded from the immediacy of the situation and only learned of what had happened secondhand.
“We didn’t really know what happened ’til the next day,” Waynesboro Rotary member Tim Quillen said, echoing what another Waynesboro Rotarian, Mark Droughman, experienced. “We were not aware of the shooting until the next morning,” Droughman said.
Kimberly Watters, a Waynesboro Rotary member and executive director of Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc., had learned, like Poulin, of some of the details Saturday night, as did Mary Ann Everly of Waynesboro. “I decided to go to my room and since I had a balcony I stepped outside to see what the night was like and saw many blue lights, and my first thought was someone was getting a ticket of some kind,” Everly said. “When I went back inside I heard the helicopters and again wondered about them, but did not give it too much thought as I thought maybe I was seeing a car accident and the helicopter was a medical one since there was so many blue lights.”
The 11 o’clock news broke the story to Everly, and confimed what Watters and Poulin had heard a couple of hours earlier. “If these folks hadn’t told us what had happened, there wouldn’t have been any reason for us to know that it would have happened at all,” Poulin said. “The staff was calm. There wasn’t any sign of police at the hotel or around the grounds. You really had no indication at all that there was this major incident going on, other than the dining room being cleared out, and people sitting around trying to figure out how they were going to get dinner that night.”
“The staff remained calm, professional. Some of them were visibly upset if you knew something had happened, but if you didn’t know something had happened, you would not have not known that,” Watters said.
It did become more obvious Sunday that a crime had taken place. “During the night, you could hear helicopters flying overhead. The next morning, our conference was downstairs in the main ballroom, which has a doorway that leads out to the loading docks. And out there was a tremendous number of State Police and sheriff’s deputies, and they had their command center across the hall from us. We were aware of what was going on by then, obviously,” Poulin said.
“But everything went on smoothly, professionally, very calm. There were no panic whatsoever. It was very, very subdued,” Watters said.
“I have never seen such professionalism as the entire staff at the Homestead. They carried on as if it was just another evening and morning.though they were aware of the tragedy,” Everly said.
– Story by Chris Graham