RICHMOND — Richmond police said the owner of the Wawaloam Campground suffered gunshot wounds Thursday during a confrontation with a resident, who was found about an hour later in Exeter, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The owner, Maureen Smith, 78, was conscious and alert after the 8:25 a.m. shooting, which occurred on the campground property at 510 Gardiner Road, according to police. She was listed in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital after surgery on Thursday. Three bullets from a small-caliber pistol struck her stomach and hand, the police said.
The police said the assailant, Daniel Brown, 77, also fired at Smith's son and at a witness before driving off, but missed.
The police said they were told that Brown, who had lived in the campground for several years, became agitated after being notified that he had to leave by Friday. Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson said the Smith family had cited concerns about his health and his ability to take care of himself.
"We are hopeful she will recover," Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson said in an email on Thursday. "The motive stemmed from a dispute regarding the campground notifying Mr. Brown that he needed to vacate the premises on Nov. 1."
Richmond officers and troopers with the Rhode Island State Police were called to the campground after receiving a 911 call. Witnesses told the police that Brown had driven to Maureen Smith's home in his pickup truck, and moments later they heard the gunshots.
According to the witnesses, Johnson said, Brown then returned to his truck while Smith escaped by climbing out of a first-floor window and ran to her daughter’s residence.
Johnson said Lt. John Arnold was the first officer to arrive and spoke with Smith, who identified her assailant and provided details of the incident leading up to the shooting. She was then taken to the hospital by ambulance.
One of the witnesses who heard the shots climbed into his own pickup truck and tried to intercept Brown’s truck. The police said that as Brown made his way through the campground, he pointed the weapon at Smith's son through an open driver's side window and fired at him. He then turned and fired at the witness who was following him, the police said.
The man who was pursuing Brown then called 911 from his pickup truck, allowing officers to keep track of Brown's route as he headed north on Gardiner Road.
Johnson said the state police joined the search and Brown's car was found parked near the intersection of New London Turnpike and Bell Schoolhouse Road in Exeter. Brown was found dead, an apparent suicide, the police said.
Messages left for owners at the campground were not returned. Property records show that the campground is appraised at $2.27 million and is owned by Wawaloam Reservation Inc., of which Smith is listed as the president and principal agent.
The campground celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year.