August 13, 2008 / 5:48 PM / 11 years ago

Arkansas Democratic chair shot at HQ dies

Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney is seen in an undated handout photo. One man was wounded by shots fired at the Democratic Party's Arkansas state headquarters in Little Rock, CNN reported on Wednesday. The ArkansasOnline Web site identified the man as Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney and said his condition was unknown. REUTERS/Arkansas Democratic Party/Handout

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, Bill Gwatney, died in a hospital after being shot by a lone gunman at the party’s headquarters in Little Rock, officials said on Wednesday.

His unidentified killer also died after a high-speed chase and exchange of gunfire with police. The motive for the shooting remained unknown.

“Arkansas has lost a great son, and I have lost a great friend. There is deep pain in Arkansas tonight,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Gwatney, 48, was a former state Senator and his shooting shocked the southern state and the Democratic Party establishment. As a state party chairman, he would have also been a “superdelegate” at the party’s national convention in Denver later this month.

Local media reports said the gunman had fired three shots in Gwatney’s office before fleeing the scene.

Former U.S. President and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife Sen. Hillary Clinton mourned the loss of Gwatney in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that Bill Gwatney has passed away,” they said. Gwatney had been an early and enthusiastic supporter of Sen. Clinton’s failed bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Reporting by Erwin Seba and Steve Barnes, writing by Ed Stoddard, editing by Todd Eastham

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