Suspected Southern Union shooter Thomas F. May III made a statement to police after he was arrested Wednesday that he shot the victims, according to the arrest warrant.

The warrant also said his wife identified him to police as the shooter.

Thomas May is accused of shooting Bethany Lynn May, 36, of Opelika, his wife; Brenda Marshall Watson, 62, of Opelika, her mother; and  Maude Ethell Marshall, 93, of Opelika, her grandmother. The couple's 4-year-old child was also in the van when the shooting occurred.

Watson died as a result of the shooting.

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THURSDAY MORNING POSTING

The Opelika Police Department released additional information Thursday morning on Wednesday afternoon's fatal shooting at Southern Union.

Thomas Franklin May III, 34, has been charged with one count of capital murder, three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

May is currently being held in the Lee County Detention Facility without bond. He is scheduled for a probable cause hearing at 2:30 p.m. Thursday before Lee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher J. Hughes.

The following is a list of charges pertaining to each of the victims:

  • Capital murder for the murder of Brenda Marshall Watson, 62, of Opelika, the mother of Bethany Lynn May.
  • Attempted murder for the shooting of Bethany Lynn May, 36, of Opelika, the wife of the suspect.
  • Attempted murder for the shooting of Maude Ethell Marshall, 93, of Opelika, the grandmother of Bethany Lynn May.
  • Attempted murder on behalf of the Mays’ child (whose name will not be released), who was seated in the van at the time of the shooting.
  • Shooting into an occupied vehicle (Charge is on behalf of all people in the vehicle at the time of the shooting.)

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WEDNESDAY EVENING POSTING

The man suspected in a shooting that left one person dead and three others injured at a local college is now in police custody.

Thomas F. May III returned to Southern Union State Community College at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday evening and told reporters he was the man police had been seeking. May is suspected of opening fire on a minivan in the school’s parking lot shortly before 4 p.m.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday evening, Opelika Police Department Chief Tommy Mangham said May was being charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of attempted murder. He said more charges could be forthcoming while police continue their investigation.

“This is a very tragic event not only for the city of Opelika, for Southern Union, but also for the families,” Mangham said. “We want to offer condolences to the family. Something like this is not easy. We all have families. You can imagine how it would affect you. Our prayers and condolences do go out to the family. And we’re going to work with the families any way we can and keep them informed and prosecute it to its fullest so they can have a conclusion to this.”

Authorities have not yet released the identities of the four victims.

OPD Capt. Allan Elkins said a 36-year-old female who was shot once in the arm and a 4-year-old child who was injured by broken glass were both transported to East Alabama Medical Center.

A 63-year-old woman who was shot in the upper torso died while being transported to EAMC. The third gunshot victim, a woman in her 90s, was transported by Life Saver helicopter to Columbus (Ga.) Regional Medical Center. A hospital spokesperson said early Wednesday evening that the woman was being evaluated by medical staff and appeared to be in satisfactory condition.

Mangham confirmed that one of the victims attends Southern Union, although he would not reveal whom. Elkins had previously told the Opelika-Auburn News that police believed the 36-year-old attended the community college.

Mangham said one of the victims, who was either May’s wife or ex-wife, had a restraining order against May. Police had earlier said the shooting was domestic in nature.

May is being held at the Lee County Detention Facility. Bond is not allowed in capital murder cases.

May ‘had temper issues’

While Auburn resident Warren Tidwell described Wednesday’s shooting as “tragic”, the news of May’s arrest didn’t come as a surprise to him.

“The guy had a nervous edge like he was going to explode at any minute,” said Tidwell, 32. “He definitely had temper issues.”

Tidwell said he first met May a couple months ago when May came into the downtown Opelika tire store where Tidwell is general manager.

“Thomas came in the store to purchase tires for his Hyundai SUV,” Tidwell recalled.

Tidwell also remembered one day that May, who was in the lobby of the store watching a TV, saw an interview involving an Auburn University football player who spoke colloquially.

“He (May) went into a profanity-laced tirade in front of several customers, some of which were children,” Tidwell said. “And moments after he went into the tirade, it was like he went right back to normal.”

Shooting ‘was terrifying’

Shortly after the shooting, authorities scoured the scene for evidence. A pewter-colored Toyota minivan riddled with bullet holes remained parked in front of the Higginbotham Academic Center, near the Health Sciences building. Three of the vehicle’s windows were shattered, while blood stains were visible on the seats and ground. A single pair of reading glasses lay on the ground.

Southern Union students were clearly shaken by the incident. Quay Thomas, a 17-year-old student, said he heard nine shots fired.

“It was terrifying," he said. "I wouldn’t think anything like this would happen at a college campus.”

Other witnesses, fighting back tears, declined to be interviewed.

“The college’s nursing and pharmacy faculty responded immediately to assist those who were injured,” Southern Union Interim President Dr. Amelia Pearson told the Opelika-Auburn News. “We do not believe other students are at risk. However, the campus will remain closed for the evening.”

Pearson said the campus is expected to be open Thursday with counselors available.

Opelika City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors said at the time of the incident, an Opelika police unit reported to Opelika High School, which is across the street from Southern Union. The high school was on lockdown for a period of time.

Anthony and Letsinger reported from the scene. Staff writers Ed Enoch and Joe McAdory also contributed to this story.

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