RALEIGH, N.C. – A 15-year-old suspect was in critical condition Friday after a shooting spree in North Carolina that left five people dead, including a police officer and a 16-year-old boy, Raleigh’s police chief said.
The suspect was taken into custody Thursday night hours after shooting people in a residential neighborhood then opening fire again along a walking trail, which remained partially closed Friday due to the investigation, according to police.
Raleigh Police Department Chief Estella Patterson did not say how the suspect was injured but said police were investigating a motive in the attack. Two others were injured in the shooting, police said.
The attack, which Gov. Roy Cooper called an “infuriating and tragic act of gun violence,” happened in a residential neighborhood of North Carolina’s capital city. Officers searched for hours before locating and arresting the suspected shooter, authorities said.
“My heart is heavy because we don’t have answers as to why this tragedy occurred,” Patterson said. “We mourn and share the loss of not only our officer, but all the victims of the senseless gun crime.”
President Joe Biden said Friday he and First Lady Jill Biden grieved with the families affected by “yet another mass shooting in America” and called for the passing of an assault weapons ban.
“The American people support this commonsense action to get weapons of war off our streets,” Biden said in a statement.
Here’s what’s known about the shooting:
The shooting started Thursday around 5 p.m. near the Neuse River Greenway Trail in a residential area northeast of downtown Raleigh, said Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin at a news conference Thursday.
The suspect first fired shots in the streets of Raleigh’s Hedingham neighborhood, Patterson said Friday. The shooter then fled toward a nearby walking trail, where he shot at more people, she said.
“I think we all know the core truth: No neighborhood, no parent, no child, no grandparent, no one should feel this fear in their communities,” Cooper said. “No one.”
The teen suspect eluded police for hours — setting off a manhunt across a crime scene that stretched for 2 miles — before he was cornered in a home. After a standoff that led to the evacuation of an elementary school and two community centers, the suspect was arrested around 9:40 p.m., Patterson said.
The neighborhood where the shooting began is a residential area of single family and town homes, as well as a golf club. The Neuse River Greenway, a walking and biking trail, runs just behind houses in the neighborhood about 27 miles along the river and connects to the state’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail that’s popular with thru-hikers. The stretch behind the neighborhood is paved and lies down a grassy slope from the houses.
Authorities described the shooter as a white 15-year-old male. He was hospitalized in critical condition, according to Patterson. “I’m so thankful for the quick response and that we were able to apprehend (him) and get him into custody very quickly,” she said.
The suspect’s name was not released, and Patterson did not say how the suspect was injured. No information was released about whether the suspect knew the victims or had any relation to them.
Crimes committed by a 15-year-old are usually adjudicated in juvenile court under North Carolina law. But a juvenile court judge must transfer the case to Superior Court for the teen to be tried as an adult if he is accused of first-degree murder and it is determined there is probable cause that the suspect committed the crime.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said in an email that prosecutors will seek to charge the suspect as an adult, but did not comment on what charges the teen could face, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities have not released information on what charges the suspect could face.
The five people killed were ages 16 to 52, according to Patterson.
Police identified the victims as Nicole Conners, 52, Susan Karnatz, 49, Mary Marshall, 35, Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres, 29, and 16-year-old James Thompson, a junior at Knightdale High School.
Torres was killed while on his way to work, Patterson said.
A 59-year-old and 33-year-old Raleigh police officer were injured. The officer, Casey Joseph Clark, was released from the hospital, and the other victim was still in the hospital in critical condition Friday, authorities said.
Police vehicles flashed blue lights as they drove down narrow streets in the Hedingham neighborhood of northeast Raleigh Friday morning. Residents expressed both fear and sorrow after the attack shook their middle-class, tree-lined neighborhood.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is just shocked,” retiree Pat Schellhammer, 72, who lives two streets away from where the gunfire broke out, told USA TODAY.
Schellhammer wasn’t home when it happened, but said if she had been, she would have taken her daily four-mile, after-dinner walk on the greenway walking trail with her husband. Wearing leggings, tennis shoes and a pullover jacket on Friday, she and her granddaughter Izabella Ference, 19, chose to walk on the street instead.
“Now I’m afraid to go on it,” Schellhammer said. “It’s scary.”
Woodrow Glass, a 74-year-old retiree, said the shooting highlights the need for policies to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles.
“Why would a kid have a gun like that? That he could cause that many deaths, you know?” Glass said.
Thompson, the 16-year-old who was killed, was a junior at Knightdale High School, according to a statement by Principal Keith Richardson on Friday.
“It is an unexpected loss and we are saddened by it. Our condolences, thoughts, and prayers go out to James’ family, the other victims, their families and all who have been impacted by yesterday’s events,” Richardson said.
Others in the community were saddened to hear a young teenager was killed in the attack.
“It hits home, you know?” 25-year-old Hayden Leach, a graduate of Knightdale, told USA TODAY on Friday.
Leach, who said he regularly jogs through the area near where part of the shooting unfolded, said he felt terrible for the victims and the suspect, given the suspect’s age.
“He’s a young kid, you just hate to see that. He had his whole life in front of him,” Leach said.
Ty Holder came to Knightdale High School Friday evening to pick up his son from a driver’s ed class, not knowing it had been cancelled. He said he was “surprised” school had been in session today.
No sports practices were underway early Friday evening, and a varsity football game was postponed.
Investigators had not determined a motive for the shooting, Patterson said Friday.
Thursday’s shooting was this year’s 25th mass fatal shooting, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database.
Mass killings database:Revealing trends, details and anguish of every US event since 2006
A mass killing is defined as when four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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