A man renovating a home in the Charlottes Belmont neighborhood was shot in the eye Tuesday during an apparent robbery, police said.
The victim, identified as 39-year-old Matthew Hawkins, remained in critical condition Tuesday evening. The shooter remained at large.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Hawkins had bought a one-story home on East 17th Street near its intersection with North McDowell Street just northeast of uptown, to remodel it.
One neighbor across the street, who asked not to be named, said hed seen Hawkins regularly working on the house. Hed just recently finished painting the exterior gray, the neighbor said.
At least one front window was boarded up, but the porch appeared to have been freshly painted white.
Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Hawkins was inside working on repairs with his girlfriend when a man approached them. The suspect came into the home and demanded money, police said.
Hawkins walked outside to get his wallet, police said, but at some point, the suspect shot him in the eye.
He was rushed into surgery at Carolinas Medical Center, reported Observer news partner WCNC-TV.
Police used a helicopter to search the area, and they brought search dogs to the scene, but the suspect had not been found Tuesday night. Police did not provide a description of the gunman.
Across town, where Hawkins lives with his girlfriend off Scaleybark Road, neighbors there said hes bought several houses in recent years to remodel and rent to others. One neighbor said Hawkins, a father, had recently helped her install security lighting to ward off crime following a couple of home break-ins nearby.
Since the 1970s, Belmont community leaders have tried to improve the neighborhood, where low-income residents have been plagued by crime over the years. In a revitalization effort launched within the past decade, the city began investing in housing and infrastructure improvements and help neighborhood residents with resources to manage the community.
Neighbors said theyd seen improvements, but drug problems linger despite regular police patrols. Some said its common to see people strolling along some streets there late at night or stopping at a home, then going inside for only a few minutes before walking away.
Neighbors said two break-ins had been reported in the past week within a block of where Hawkins was shot Tuesday.
One of those break-ins was at Nick Culls home.
Cull said he was gone the night of July 4. When he returned, he found his back door wide open. Someone had knocked in an air-conditioning unit and climbed inside. The thief took cash, two televisions and a laptop, Cull said.
Cull was at home Tuesday when Hawkins was shot. He heard a single shot but said its not unusual to hear gunfire in the neighborhood.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.