UPDATE: A high school football game was put on hold and the stadium evacuated when a murder suspect took off on foot less than a mile from where hundreds of high school students were gathered. School leaders tell Channel 3 the decision to evacuate was the right call.

The game between the Murphy Bulldogs and North Georgia Falcons was called at halftime, and the Bob Hendrix Memorial Stadium was evacuated. Police say it was for safety reasons.

Dennis Gene Blakemore has been calling Murphy High School Football games for nearly 20 years. But this week, what happened under the Friday night lights was a first. “It was quite a reaction, nothing like that happened at the ball field before.”

Blakemore was updating listeners on the local radio station about the first half of the game when he noticed blue police lights coming from nearby.

“Somebody handed me a note that they got that said there was a shooting at the Nate's Country Store.," Blakemore said. "They thought the suspect might be coming towards the ball field.”

He interrupted highlights to inform listeners the field was being evacuated.

“The two coaches met midfield," Blakemore said. "The game was so far out of hand. They said look games over, Murphy wins 42 nothing, everybody needs to go home, and we have a serious situation here.”

Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeana Conley wasn't at the football game. She received a call from the principal, who had less than ten minutes to decided what to do. The principal and three resource officers made the decision to evacuate.

“The decision was made in order to keep everyone safe, that we needed to evacuate the stadium because you are pretty much fish in a barrel at the point if everyone is in the field,” Dr. Conley said.

She said administrators handled everything properly. She met with them over the weekend to discuss what happened.

“Looked at our processes to see did we handle that the way we should have," Dr. Conley said. "In hindsight, would we have done something different? That is only going to make us better to look at our procedures.”

Blakemore said the stadium was cleared in 30 minutes. Police established a perimeter around the high school. He's thankful no one attending the game was injured, but he is shaken to think what could have happened.

“Kind of scary actually, I thought a lot about it as I walked out," Blakemore said. "We are all walking out, I thought man this guy could be up on the hill,” Blakemore added. 

Police found the suspect, Shane McKinney, around 11 o'clock that night about two miles from the stadium. He remains in the Cherokee County Jail. He is charged with felony murder and discharging a firearm within city limits.

Police identify the victim in that murder as John Mark Lowery.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Murphy Police Department has identified the suspect and victim in Friday night's murder.

Shane Donovan McKinney, 28, has been charged with felony murder and discharge of firearm in the city.

Murphy police said the shooting happened in the parking lot of Nate's Country Store.

911 received several calls about the shooting just before 9:00 pm, a police department spokesperson explained. Callers said a man had been shot and that the suspect ran towards Murphy High School where a football game was being played.

School personnel and school law enforcement were made aware of the shooting. The game was called at halftime, and the stadium was evacuated.

First responders performed life-saving measures on the victim, John Mark Lowery. He was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

McKinney ran to his home in the Marble area. He was taken into custody after a short standoff with law enforcement.

McKinney is currently in the Cherokee County Detention Center without bond.

"On behalf of The Murphy Police Department I would like to thank our law enforcement community and all the different agencies for the assistance in this case. The cooperation between our Law Enforcement agencies helped to bring this case to a fast conclusion," a police department spokesperson said.

The case remains under investigation.

Stay with Channel 3 as we learn more about this developing story.


PREVIOUS STORY: A reported shooting near Murphy High School has stopped the school's football game Friday night.

Details are limited at this time.

Officials say the game between the Murphy Bulldogs and North Georgia Falcons was stopped before the second half because of a reported shooting that happened off campus.

Bob Hendrix Memorial Stadium was evacuated due to the incident.

Channel 3 is working to learn more.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this developing story.