Eighty-four-year-old Sam Wingate survived a bloody war in Korea and became a respected member of his Baytown, Texas community, only to be shot in the back by a coward while enjoying a ritual early morning stroll through the 800 block of Bayou Woods in Pinehurst Subdivision near his home.
Although he initially survived the drive-by shooting and promised his family that he would walk out of the hospital to find his shooter, Wingate succumbed to his wounds four days later, on Aug. 19. Seeking justice for the Texas Navy veteran, police want answers and have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to his killer’s arrest.
Heinous homicide in Houston
Wingate began his day on Aug. 15 like so many others, enjoying a walk with a friend through an area that local residents referred to as a “quiet neighborhood” where people are “not afraid to walk around” or even “go outside in the dark.”
However, the peaceful serenity was shattered when a vehicle, described as a light-colored sedan, drove up behind Wingate and his companion. Someone inside the car fired several shots that witnesses described as “pounding” before speeding away, leaving the 84-year-old with a grievous back wound.
Wingate was rushed to a Houston-area hospital where he received surgical treatment for the gunshot wound. Unfortunately, the bullet left him paralyzed, but when he woke up he immediately told his son that he wanted out of the hospital so that he could find the person who shot him and find out why he was targeted.
“That was his main driving force, it kept him going until Sunday. He wanted answers,” the victim’s son, Donnie Wingate, told a local NBC News affiliate.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Wingate assured doctors that he “would walk out of the hospital” before he died. His death “made this cowardly shooting even more tragic,” according to police officers familiar with the case.
Random act of violence
So far, the incomprehensible act of violence appears to have been random, perhaps the act of a sick-minded thrill-seeker. Baytown Police Lieutenant Steve Dorris explained his authorities were struggling to establish a motive:
I’m real cautious to classify it as a targeted shooting because we don’t know that it is. Again the fact that it’s in an area where there’s not a lot of crime that happens, especially of this nature, the time of the day that it happened. It lends itself away from it being random.
Police have released a black and white surveillance video which shows a four-door sedan that investigators believe is a Chevrolet. It was missing its front license plate, which may be a sign of premeditation on behalf of the killer.
“I want to look the guy in the eye and find out what’s the motive. I want to know why,” his son told KHOU11.
Due to the random nature of the homicide, investigative leads have been sparse and inconclusive, police are reporting. However, anyone with information about this crime should call Baytown Crime Stoppers at 281-427-TIPS (8477).