GOLDSBORO, North Carolina -- Police are investigating an apparent murder-suicide after an attorney was killed by his client inside his law office in North Carolina, according to authorities.
The shooting reportedly happened inside the Riddle and Brantley law firm in Goldsboro just before 4:15 p.m. on Monday.
Investigators said they found the 42-year-old lawyer, Patrick White, and his client, 46-year-old Francisco Sanchez, dead inside the office. Authorities believe Sanchez shot and killed White before turning the gun on himself.
Sanchez and his wife, Crystal Guerrero, came into the law office at about 9:30 a.m. for a mediation. Because of attorney-client privilege, details of the mediation were not disclosed.
White was the attorney of record for the Sanchez/Guerrero case, and attorney Gene Riddle was assisting with the mediation.
There seemed to be little warning of the violence to come; Riddle recounted the horrific moments that followed.
"I'm still trying to process it," Riddle said.
The meeting seemed routine. Mediation progressed throughout the day; all parties landed on an amount, and everyone seemed pleased with the outcome shortly after 4 p.m.
Guerrero then asked to speak with Sanchez alone while White, Riddle, and the mediator left for other offices in the building.
After the couple met privately for a few moments, Riddle said he saw Sanchez coming toward him and heard gunshots. Riddle, believing he had been shot, fell backward into his office.
Sanchez then turned his attention to White, standing nearby, and attempted to stop Sanchez from continuing gunfire but was fatally shot in the process.
"I'm telling you this (account of what happened), so you understand the heroic action of Mr. White," Riddle said on Tuesday. "Patrick yelled (Sanchez's name) and asked him to stop."
"Patrick was saving us," Riddle said, with tears in his eyes.
Riddle said he got up and began frantically looking for his daughter, who he believed was still in the law firm. He saw Sanchez in the reception area and told him to get out and leave.
Moments later, Riddle heard another gunshot and found that Sanchez had shot himself in the head.
Riddle was at White's side in his final moments while calling 911.
"All I could say is, 'God help him. Take care of Patrick.' I knew he was gone," Riddle said. "Patrick, he sacrificed himself. Our savior."
People living in that community said they were shocked to hear of the violent episode at the popular law firm.
At the gas station across the street, people who saw the police swarm this well-known law office said Monday afternoon that they witnessed the unthinkable.
"I heard about what happened," Anthony Burke, who drove past the crime scene, said. "I know my family is big on Christmas holiday, and we heard he had a family as well. So, we wanted to reach out as well and show our condolences. It's a really sad incident."
Goldsboro police and county deputies swarmed the law offices throughout the evening.
"I saw cops coming from multiple directions, sirens, and I was wondering what was going on, but I knew it was something serious because when they came out, they had their guns ready on guard," James Crearer, who works at the Shell station across the street, said.
Crearer said he's interacted with Riddle in the past.
"As time went by, we heard what was going on. And yes, sir, very surprising. Very shocking to the community," he said.
A representative from Riddle and Brantley said via phone Monday night that no one could comment on this investigation.
"This is one of the safest areas in Goldsboro, and none of that stuff is going on here," Muhab Arkubati, the owner of the Shell station, said. "Shocking to see it around here."
On Tuesday, a law firm staffer added: "(Patrick) is a true hero, which is the way he lived his entire life."