A father of seven described by a friend as a "family man" died early Tuesday after masked gunmen broke into a Lincolnville home and shot him as he sat at the kitchen table.

Leland M. Shannon Jr., 40, died of the single shotgun wound to his upper thigh. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office said Shannon specifically was targeted in the 12:40 a.m. home invasion at 805 W. Carolina Ave.

Sheriff's spokesman Capt. Jeff Watson said the motive for the slaying wasn't immediately known, but that the area is known for drug activity. The house, tucked behind trees along the roadway, abuts a property for the Nazareth Holiness Church of Deliverance.

Brian Williams, 40, who lives on nearby West Broad Street, said he has known Shannon since they both were 6 and called him a "family man." Williams dialed 911 early Tuesday after Shannon's girlfriend banged on his door, alerting him to the shooting.

"I have no idea why anyone would do this. Nobody knows," Williams said. "He's an outgoing person, the type of person who takes care of his family."

Sheriff's officials said three people in the home -- Shannon, his girlfriend, 20-year-old Joy Tareece Holmes, and 33-year-old Antwone Aiken -- invited a man in around 12:30 a.m. and talked briefly. Aiken later told investigators that he knew the visitor but didn't know his name.

After the visitor left and walked toward a gray sedan parked outside, Aiken asked who was in the passenger seat, according to an incident report.

"No one you need to worry about," the report quoted the visitor as saying.

But that's when two people in the car, both black men dressed in black clothes and masks, got out and broke into the home. Both masked men were armed, and the killer shot Shannon with a shotgun, according to the report.

Investigators didn't know whether the assailants intended to steal anything from the home, but nothing was taken, Watson said. The area is known for drug activity, but Watson said deputies found no drugs at the scene.

"The victim was the intended target," he said. "The (men) forced entry into the home and immediately shot the victim and fled."

The intruders and the earlier visitor to the home left in the gray sedan. All three are considered suspects in the killing.

Williams said he ran to the home after he heard about the shooting and found Shannon lying on the kitchen floor in a large pool of blood. Shannon, who has a Fripp Lane, Summerville, address, was transported to Medical University Hospital. He died about seven hours later.

Shannon's criminal history shows arrests dating to 1989, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He had faced charges, such as possessing marijuana and cocaine in 2003, marijuana possession again in 2009 and discharging firearms into a dwelling in 2003. He was sentenced to a year in prison on the 2003 drug charges.

Williams said Shannon wasn't involved in drugs.

"That was his home," Williams said. "They went in and did that to him, and God prevailed. It's a tragedy right now."

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or on Twitter at @offlede.