Update: This article has been updated to remove the name of the minor suspect, which the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office disclosed in a press conference and on multiple social media posts. The sheriff recanted the disclosure the following day.
WILMINGTON –– Authorities have apprehended an alleged 15-year-old shooter after opening fire inside New Hanover High School’s crowded catwalk. At least one student was injured in the shooting, who is being treated in the hospital and is expected to recover.
The 15-year-old has been charged with carrying and discharging a weapon on school grounds, attempted first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury, District Attorney Ben David announced in a 2:50 p.m. news briefing in front of the high school.
Just before the briefing — which authorities didn’t announce to the press at large but was streamed by WECT — SWAT team members exited the front steps of New Hanover High School, conducting final sweeps to ensure the building was secure.
“This is something that we are not going to tolerate. Our schools need to be the safest place for our children to be,” New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said.
Newly hired school communications officer Josh Smith briefly spoke and shared that “reunification operations” were underway. Evacuated students who had walked several blocks from New Hanover High School were being held at the MLK Center and Williston Middle School, as parents anxiously awaited approval to pick them up.
Shelter-in-place orders were put in place midday at Laney High School, Trask Middle School, Gregory Elementary School, and Williston Middle School. All shelter-in-place orders had all been lifted as of 3 p.m., according to the sheriff’s spokesperson.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said he saw the video circulating of the incident.
“We were lucky today,” he said. “This culture of retaliation has got to stop. We have seen this over and over again throughout our community and it has got to stop.”
David said because the suspect is a minor, his hearings will not be public. They would only become public if the DA’s office chooses to seek a transfer to adult court. There are ethics rules that prevent the state from revealing too many details before a defendant has had their chance at a trial. These rules are especially poignant when a juvenile is charged with a crime, David pointed out.
“Those [details] will come out in a courtroom, I promise you,” he said. “They can’t come out in a press conference.”
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