Police: Eviction from campground may have been shooter's motive in Lake Ozark

LAKE OZARK, Mo. During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Lake Ozark Police Chief Gary Launderville answered questions surrounding the deadly shooting early Wednesday morning at the Riverview RV Park in Lake Ozark.

Police say the first call came in around 12:36 a.m. Wednesday. When officers arrived on scene, they say they found two victims, one of which was shot. Court documents stated the man and woman told officers gunshots were fired into their RV around midnight. The woman said she saw a man outside their RV at the time of the shooting. Police say both were taken to Lake Regional Hospital and have since been released.

Upon further investigation, Launderville said officers found two other victims deceased in the bed of a residence above the office building of the RV park, according to court documents.

The two killed are believed to be husband and wife, and were employees of the RV park, however, police have not yet officially released the names of either, as they are still trying to contact family members.

Police say they scoured the area for over an hour-and-a-half Wednesday morning, checking every RV site for a person of interest. After they believed it was safe, they contacted the Phelps County Sheriff's Department and law enforcement agencies in Rolla to locate a 58-year-old man, their person of interest, Gary Sweet.

Court documents go on to say a Missouri State Highway Patrol corporal contacted Sweet at his Phelps County home around 3:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Documents say Sweet told police he was home during the time of the reported shootings, however officers claim his car was warm to the touch, indicating it had been recently driven.

Police then, according to the probable cause document, used cell phone towers to ping his phone number, known from the previous incidents, showing it was used in the Lake Ozark area at the time of the shooting. Sweet was then held at the Phelps County jail as a person of interest under 24-hour hold.

While police searched the scene, they reportedly found 16 gauge shotgun shells, which the Phelps County Sheriff's Department said matched a shotgun and shells found while executing a search warrant at Sweet's Rolla home.

Launderville said Sweet was known to law enforcement, as he had been at the park for several months. Launderville added his department had previous contact with Sweet, once in March, and one in mid-October.

That second encounter with Sweet police referenced is believed to be the time Sweet was evicted from the campground, as they responded to a simple assault call between Sweet and another resident of the RV park.

While it is still unclear, police believe Sweet's eviction from the RV park may have been part of a motive.

At this time, police cannot say whether or not Sweet acted alone, but they do not have any evidence to believe anyone else was involved at this time.

The investigation, police say, could last days or even weeks. Chief Launderville cited a lack of manpower for a reason. Launderville said the Lake Ozark Police Department is a 12 person department.

Lake Ozark Police were originally assisted by the Miller County Sheriff's Department, Osage Beach Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Eldon Police Department.

The Missouri Major Case Squad was activated, but are only active on the investigation for about 48 hours, Launderville said. In total, between 12 to 15 agencies assisted the initial investigation.

Sweet has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first degree assault, and four separate counts of armed criminal action.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.