Orchestra members react to friend's shooting death in Pinellas Park

By Melissa Eichman, Tim Wronka, and Saundra Weathers, Reporters
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 10:40 AM EST

A woman who was a member of the Pinellas Park Civic Orchestra was shot and killed Monday night on a Pinellas Park street. 

  • Police: Woman shot, killed on Pinellas Park street
  • She has been identified as Caroline Morton-Hicks
  • Shooting happened Monday night on 78th Ave near city hall
  • Police said they believe shooting is an isolated event

Pinellas Park police are investigating the shooting that happened just before 10 p.m. in the 5100 block of 78th Avenue, near city hall. 

Police said the woman, identified as 59-year-old Caroline Morton-Hicks, was a trombone player attending an orchestra practice at the performing arts center. As she left, there was some kind of altercation in a parking lot between the performing arts center and city hall. 

Someone with a gun chased Morton-Hicks and shot her on 78th Avenue. 

She was pronounced dead at the scene. The suspect is being sought.

"She seemed very nice, she was quiet," neighbor Kay Dauphinais said of Morton-Hicks. "Sadness and hurt to think that somebody would do that to somebody else."

Police said they are not sure what led to the fight but are surprised the shooting unfolded on a public street. 

"This is not a typical area where we have a high volume of crime," said Pinellas Park Sgt. Michael Lynch. "It's an area where you have city buildings, it's not an area where we have crime, let alone this sort of thing in general."

Business owners and neighbors in the area agree.

"Naturally I was alarmed at first," said David Greer, GM of National Auto Service. "This type of thing doesn't happen here. It's a pretty safe area."

Later on Wednesday, a rose sat in a chair at The New Horizons band practice in Gulfport, a chair where Morton usually sat playing trombone. Fellow band members at the practice said Morton Hicks's death just didn't make sense.

"We are all shocked and saddened by her passing," said bandmate Tom Kaltenbaugh.

"I really can’t speculate on what went wrong -- it wasn’t like her to argue with people," said friend Joanne Van Voorhies. "I heard there was an argument. That’s really not how she was."

"It's going to gnaw at me," said friend Chris Clement. "I mean I’m still in a daze. I lost my place in the music a couple of times letting my mind wander."

"She had no knowledge of it coming, but still not being able to say goodbye and say the things that need to be said," Clement continued. "So you've got to live each day like your last."

Her friends and band members say all they can do now is wait for answers and keep playing. 

"It was rought at first because other news agencies came in and pointed at her chair that was empty. But as we got to playing you could hear the music that she loved so much. She's playing up there," said band member Pam Hugaert. 

Officers said they believe this is an isolated incident. 

"I hope it was random," Dauphinais said. "I just hope it wasn't anybody out for her. I can't see why."

An investigation is ongoing and officers are talking to witnesses and trying to determine if surveillance video will help find the gunman.