HARRISBURG, N.C. -- Anthony Charles Hardy had a nice home on a cul-de-sac, a pharmacy degree from UNC Chapel Hill and the respect of his peers in the creative writing groups he loved.
But his life wasn’t as stable as it might have appeared.
The poetry-loving 50-year-old had a history of aggressive behavior with neighbors, and spent a year on probation for assaulting a man who lived next door. He lived alone in his 2,300-square-foot home.
On Good Friday, police say, Hardy shot and killed his neighbors living on either side of his two-story brick home at 7795 Coachman Court in the Windsor Forest neighborhood.
Daniel Thomas Kirchner, 42, and Gary Wade Stocks, 64, were shot in the backyard of Kirchner’s house at 7791 Coachman Court. Hardy later killed himself in his own house during a standoff with Cabarrus County SWAT team members who forced residents indoors and shut down entry into the neighborhood off Tom Query Road for six hours.
The shootings stunned residents of Harrisburg, a growing suburb about 15 miles northeast of Charlotte. Few in the town of nearly 12,000 can remember anything like it happening.
Police have provided few details of their investigation, but those who knew Hardy characterized him either as intensely private or an angry recluse.
A friend of Hardy’s from a poetry club in Greensboro said she had reached out to him a month ago when he hadn’t come to any of the recent meetings. Diana Engel said she called Hardy in February and told him she missed him.
“He said, ‘I’m really struggling with something right now,’ ” Engel recalled.
But he never elaborated, she said.
Kirchner was an insurance agent and father of two young daughters. Stocks had recently called 911 on Hardy’s behalf when Hardy was having a perceived heart attack. Stocks later picked him up from the hospital, according to Stocks’ minister, Pastor John Cashnell of Providence Baptist Church.
Hardy wasn’t married and didn’t have children. His mother and his father, a longtime pharmacist in the small eastern N.C. town of La Grange, both died years ago. His sister declined to talk to an Observer reporter Saturday when reached by phone. He described himself as a pharmacist and poet on his Facebook and LinkedIn pages, but listed few friends or social connections.
Those who knew Hardy through his writing groups described him as an accomplished writer with a “gentle spirit.”
David Radavich, the president of the Charlotte Writers Club, said Hardy had been chosen at least twice as one of the best poets among the group’s some 220 members.
Engel, his friend from the Greensboro poetry group, and Richard Allen Taylor, a Charlotte poet, said Hardy had been working on poems about the French writer Colette.
Engel said she first met Hardy in 2006. She eventually discovered that he was a hunter and politically conservative.
Neighbors say Hardy was angry about trees that were cut down behind his house and that the victims were on the homeowners’ association board that approved the removal of the trees.
The pine trees were in the way of power lines and were removed last week, said resident Scott Epley, who has also served as a general contractor for the Windsor Forest homeowners association.
But others, including resident Chris Duffell and Providence Baptist’s Cashnell, said there was no such feud.
Neighbors who have lived near Hardy for more than a decade said he used to get into arguments about landscaping with the previous owner of Kirchner’s house.
Court records show Hardy was found guilty of assaulting that man in 2004.
“He didn’t really talk to anyone; he kept to himself,” resident Beryl Kitchens said.
At 4 p.m. Friday, Kirchner’s wife Lisa called sheriff’s deputies to say Hardy was shooting a gun in her backyard.
Kirchner’s relatives said Hardy shot and killed the two men in front of Lisa Kirchner and her two young children. She had to run into her house to escape being shot herself, they said.
“It’s crazy,” said Travis Griffin, her brother.
After the shootings, Hardy ran into his own house and sought refuge there for hours. He fired at least twice during the standoff, police said.
Windsor Forest residents huddled in their homes as police in tactical gear canvassed their streets and yards with guns drawn.
In the aftermath, they said they hope to hold vigils, and some plan to set up a fund for the Kirchner family. Cashnell said he will urge residents to draw on the Christian faith for strength and healing during his Easter sermon.
Windsor Forest residents said the two victims were Christian men who were role models in the community. Many do not want to dwell on Hardy, a man they say never really fit in.
“I almost couldn’t leave town today, because we had to hug and talk about everything,” said Michelle Zilner, who left for Spring Break with her family Saturday. “We’re all going to have to keep doing that until it gets better.”