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Suspect charged in fatal shooting of former Hardeeville volunteer fire chief

  • Sauls Funeral Home/ Ernest Martin Stevens

A 30-year-old Hardeeville man was charged Friday in connection with Thursday’s fatal shooting of Ernest Martin Stevens, the city of Hardeeville said in a news release.

Devon Dunham was charged with murder, possession of a firearm of a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm during a violent crime, the city said.

The arrest was made at 9:25 p.m., with the help of the Southeast United States Marshal Task Force, Savannah-Metropolitan Police Department, S.C. Law Enforcement Division, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and the Hardeeville Police Department.

Dunham is being held in Chatham County jail awaiting extradition to Jasper County.

On Thursday morning, Stevens, 77, was found shot at the Argent Square complex in Hardeeville. He was transported to Coastal Carolina Hospital where he died.

Stevens was well-known in the community. He was retired from Stone Container of Savannah; a member of the Hardeeville Marine Rescue Squadron; former chief of the Hardeeville Volunteer Fire Department; and deacon of the Hardeeville First Presbyterian Church.

“It’s (Stevens) someone we know, we’re familiar with and I personally know. I had breakfast with him yesterday,” Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward said at Thursday's press conference. “So it’s a sad day for Hardeeville. He used to be a fire chief here and volunteer with the fire department. It’s a very sad day for Hardeeville, this gentleman, and his family. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.”

According to Woodward, Stevens tried to get away from the shooter in his car. Shots were fired into the car, but Woodward said forensics did not disclose how many shots were fired or whether the shots were from close-range or not.

“Apparently the deceased was trying to get away from the guy who was shooting at him and he drove over to the area behind the Advance Auto Parts and came to a stop there,” said Woodward. “All I can tell you is there were multiple shots into the vehicle where the victim was.”

Stevens was alone at the time of the shooting, cops say. There’s no known motive.

Woodward said he’s shocked by the shooting.

“It caught us all off guard,” he said. “To have that happen at that time in the morning around here is unusual.”

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