Saturday, September 23, 2023

Police: Gang-on-gang issues led to afternoon shootings, lockdown at school board office

Damentez Lottees Johnson

Detectives with the Wilmington Police Department’s Gang Unit have arrested a Wilmington man and teen in connection with two of three gang-related shootings reported Tuesday. Investigators are still searching for suspects in the first reported shooting.

Damentez Lottees Johnson, 17, and Jordan Michael Gregory, 25, both of Wilmington, face several charges after the two suspects were arrested following a vehicle stop in the 2400 block of Carolina Beach Road at about 9 p.m. Tuesday, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay.

The arrest was the result of about six hours of investigation, which began Tuesday afternoon, according to detectives with the police department’s gang unit. Two separate gang-related shootings were reported in Wilmington around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday – one in the 300 block of Sumter Drive and another in the 1000 block of Wellington Avenue, Lindsay said.

According to Cpl. Peter Schwarz, a detective in the police department’s gang unit, the first shooting occurred on Sumter Drive, where Johnson, Gregory and a third person — who was detained in the vehicle stop but not charged — were outside a home.

An unidentified suspect opened fire in the area, damaging two homes along the block with bullets, Lindsay said.

Johnson reportedly pushed a small child out of the way of the shooting, Schwarz said. The men then entered a vehicle and allegedly chased after the suspects though Long Leaf Park, Shipyard Boulevard, Carolina Beach Road and eventually, Wellington Avenue where the second shooting took place, Schwarz said.

Witnesses on Sumter Drive reported a white Cadillac was chasing a blue vehicle and firing shots, Lindsay said. The same white Cadillac was alleged to have fired shots on Wellington Avenue. A Wellington Avenue home was also struck by gunfire.

“There was a complete and utter disregard on both incident for public safety,” Schwarz said. “The investigation led us to believe that there would be retaliation, because these are rival gangs that were involved in the shootings.”

Almost four hours later a third shooting was reported in the Houston Moore public housing community located in the 1600 block of South 13th Street at about 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, Lindsay said.

According to New Hanover County Schools’ Twitter feed, board of education members and those attending their regular monthly meeting at the Board of Education Center at 1805 S. 13th Street were placed under a lock-down due to the shooting Tuesday night.

Tammy Covil, a New Hanover County school board member, said, “When we were made aware of the fact that there had been a shooting outside the building, we immediately went into lock-down. It was very similar in circumstance to what happens at our schools. So, as far as safety was concerned, I certainly never felt unsafe. We just waited for the ‘all clear’ and were able to leave.”

The shooting occurred at the end of the board’s meeting, and board members and attendees were under a lock-down order for about 15 minutes..

“I was extremely impressed with the professionalism of the officers onsite. That’s indicative of what happens at every school in our district, and that’s a testament to what our SRO’s do in the schools,” Covil said.

Shortly after the evening shooting, law enforcement spotted the white Cadillac on Carolina Beach Road and conducted the traffic stop. Upon making contact with the suspects in the vehicle, officers allegedly observed Johnson – a front passenger in the vehicle – attempting to put a handgun into the glove box, Schwarz said.

Johnson has been charged with two counts of discharging a firearm within city limits, going armed to the terror of the public, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm by minor and possession of a stolen firearm. He is a validated gang member, according to detectives.

Jordan Michael Gregory

Gregory, who was reportedly driving the vehicle, was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and aiding and abetting a misdemeanor, Lindsay said. The third person in the vehicle, who is reportedly a validated gang member, was not charged in the case.

Schwarz said the two suspects were charged in connection with the shots fired in Houston Moore and on Wellington Avenue. The investigation into the Sumter Drive shooting is ongoing.

While gang detectives have not identified what sparked the Houston Moore shooting, they did indicate the shootings are suspected to be over gang-on-gang issues.

“It’s respect, it’s money, it’s drugs, it’s over females…that’s pretty much what it’s over,” Schwarz said. “[Johnson and Gregory] were victims, but obviously they became offenders once they started the car chase to go after the suspects who did the [Sumter Drive] shooting.”

Schwarz credited city-county task forces, including the Mobile Field Force and Public Housing Task Force, as well as K9 and patrol officers with the collaborative effort that led to the two arrests on Tuesday. Gang detectives also said witness cooperation was essential in the investigation.

“It was an ultimate team effort on this one. We couldn’t have done it without those guys. They deserve credit where credit is due,” Schwarz said.

Johnson was booked at the New Hanover County Jail under a $500,000 secured bond. Gregory was booked under a $25,000 secured bond.

Anyone with information about the shootings are asked to contact the Wilmington Police Department at 910-343-3609 or Text-A-Tip to CRIMES. Start your message with Tip708, then type your tip.

Port City Daily reporter Hilary Snow contributed to this report.

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