Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Emergency transcript reveals official timeline of response to New Hanover High shooting

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Wilmington Police Department and State Highway Patrol responded to shots fired Monday morning at New Hanover High. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON –– The suspect in Monday’s shooting at New Hanover High was arrested at least two hours and 20 minutes after law enforcement began the process of escorting what eventually amounted to approximately 1,400 students from the 13th and Market street campus to Williston Middle on 10th Street, 911 emergency transcripts confirm.

Law enforcement units announced over the radio the 15-year-old alleged shooter was apprehended at 2:11 p.m. Roughly 30 minutes later, top law enforcement officials joined District Attorney Ben David near the school’s front steps for a seemingly last-minute news briefing that was not announced to the press at large.

RELATED: Unification operation at Williston was disorderly, chaotic post-New Hanover High shooting

David announced four charges against the juvenile who allegedly fired at least three shots, injuring a fellow student, as a terrified crowd of bystanders scattered.

Initial response

According to the records, law enforcement responded to shots fired at the high school around 11:23 a.m. and quickly called for units to surround the campus. The shooting took place after students’ second period, during a class change. Both a parent of an NHHS student — whose son informed her of the shooting — and a bystander at North 3rd and Princess streets called in the incident to 911. A freshman phoned from a nearby barbershop and reported students running in the opposite direction of the school at 11:24 a.m.

“We need more units . . . set a perimeter around New Hanover High School,” a law enforcement officer is heard ordering in one recording at 11:24 a.m. “We’re trying to get all the kids inside. I need a perimeter on 14th and Princess, 14th and Market, all the way over to Dock.”

By 11:27 a.m. officers were on the lookout for a suspect described as Black teenage male, wearing all black with red and black shoes, still at large. Law enforcement first named the eventual arrestee as a possible suspect at 11:39 a.m.; they had confirmation by 11:44 a.m.

Reports indicate the victim who was shot was first taken to a front office before secured in room 215 to be treated by EMS. Law enforcement initially identified the gunshot wound was in the hip; at 11:29 a.m. EMS clarified the wounds were to the victim’s left hand and left leg, before they moved the patient down the elevator at 11:43 p.m. to the 14th Street side of New Hanover High. An officer escorted the victim to the hospital at 11:44 a.m., 15 minutes after being assessed by EMS.

New Hanover County Schools announced the official lockdown via email at 11:53 a.m.

As of 11:59 a.m., officers said the victim’s parents had yet to receive any notification.

At 12:01 p.m. the suspect’s parents were headed home “since they don’t know where their son is.” “WAS VERY UNCOOPERATIVE,” the report states.

Officers reported at 12:10 p.m. video from the incident was available from a witness — the first of many throughout the day to come forward with recorded footage.

At 12:28 p.m., the report notes parents walked up to 11th and Ann streets and claimed their child was involved in the altercation and “they need to know who to talk to.”

Multiple drones were flying overhead at 12:35 p.m., according to the report, and two minutes later, the suspect’s parents reportedly returned to the command post. A photo of the suspect was “e-mailed out” at 12:56 p.m.

A Wilmington Police Department officer gears up outside of New Hanover High. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)

Lockdown, evacuation

Students were scattered inside buildings and around the outskirts of campus, some three or more blocks away, as evacuation procedures progressed.

“HAVE LOTS OF STUDENTS COMING UP ON RANKIN ST IM GOING TO START GETTING NAMES,” the transcript states at 11:31 a.m. A bus was ordered to pick up 20 students in the 1400 block.

At 11:32 a.m. a law enforcement officer reported kids were contacting parents, who were en route to New Hanover High. Officers were told to direct parents to the MLK Center, which was changed minutes later to the Williston Middle gym but then reverted back to the community center.

By 11:44 a.m., multiple eyewitnesses told Port City Daily that students were on foot, making the trek eight blocks away to Williston Middle School. A WPD helicopter was monitoring the student transition from Hanover to Williston.

“[S]tudents need to be evacuated [to] the safest route [to] Williston,” records show at 11:46 a.m. “Parents need to go to MLK for accountability.”

Also at 11:46 p.m., the transcript says several students were “in the smoothie place behind the school.”

However, inside the high school, four students hunkered down in the female bathroom on the third floor, officers stated at 11:48 a.m, after being informed by a parent of their location. Reports also specify parents helped alert enforcement that some kids were hiding out as a group in the weight room, and 10 to 15 others were in a second-story classroom.

Off campus, officers found around 40 students in the Princess Street gym and removed them at 11:52 a.m. Meanwhile, some students were located on Orange Street, while over on Rankin Street, they were down to transporting four students by 12:01 p.m.

In the opposite direction, at Dock and 15th, around eight students were reportedly at the Carousel Center at 12:27 p.m.

All students at Williston were accounted for by 1:06 p.m., the report states.

At 1:29 p.m.: “Parents are saying that they were told to come to get their child or they are getting on” the bus.

“[T]hat is fake news…the student will be going with the parents but in an orderly manner. will just take time,” a law enforcement officer responded.

Around 1:43 p.m., law enforcement received a tip: A Lyft driver received a request from a potential rider with a pickup location of New Hanover High School before the shooting. Immediately following the shooting, the fare called and changed the location of the pickup spot. The Lyft driver canceled after learning about the shooting.

As one unit announced the shooter was in custody at 2:11 p.m. at an undisclosed location, a SWAT team was working to clear New Hanover High School.

By 4:45 p.m., all students had headed home and the staff was able to leave.

All WPD units cleared at 5:32 p.m.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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