Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said at a news conference that the victims were shot in the parking lot of Woods TV store in the town on the Virginia border and less than a mile from the police station. Police said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Marcos Chavez Gonzalez. He is charged with four counts of murder.
Watson said the victims and the suspect were at the television store for a reason.
"We don't feel this was a random event," Watson said. "We do have an idea why (they were shot), but we won't be releasing that."
Watson said alerts have been issued in North Carolina and Virginia to be on the lookout for Gonzalez. Authorities had detained two men but released them after it was determined that they were not involved in the shooting.
Nursing supervisor Sue Coe at Northern Hospital of Surry County confirmed that two people died at the store around 2:30 p.m. She said two who were wounded died at the hospital, just across the street from the store. Woods TV sells televisions and satellite systems.
Police say the victims' names were being withheld because their families have not been notified. Watson said all four were from Surry County that includes Mount Airy. The town served as the inspiration for the television town of Mayberry in "The Andy Griffith Show."
WXII-TV in Winston-Salem reported that people who knew the victims gathered near the store and began crying and collapsing to the ground.
Mount Airy, with a population of approximately 8,700, is about 100 miles north of Charlotte. Griffith is a native of the town, which has built a tourist trade on nostalgia for the show that continues to thrive in syndication.