WILMINGTON — According to the Wilmington Police Department, a weekend shooting that took place in the historic downtown area looks to be connected to gang activity.
WPD Lt. Greg Willett confirmed Wednesday: “There is a gang nexus with this incident. At this time, we cannot confirm if the individual shot was the specific target or the group he was with was the target.”
Only one person was found shot at the 00 Princess Street block and is expected to recover.
Officers were on Second Street on Sunday, Oct. 15, around 2:15 a.m. when they heard shots fired, confirmed by a ShotSpotter report as well. The downtown task force, comprising officers from WPD and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the scene promptly, Willett said.
On foot, they ran toward the sounds of gunfire, near Second and Princess streets, and while in commute heard another round go off.
Willett said they believe part of the incident was mobile; bullet holes were found in the windows at the Hannah Block USO and Community Arts Center, a few blocks south. It has been processed as part of the investigation.
A downtown resident — who chose to remain anonymous out of safety concerns — lives nearby and said she was worried for her family. Though they were sleeping during Sunday’s shooting and didn’t hear the gunfire, the mother of two realized the incident traveled near Second and Orange streets once she saw cardboard placed over bullet holes at the community arts center window. Her children participate in theater classes there weekly.
“I sat in the building for an hour during class,” she told PCD. “There were at least two bullet holes in the windows from the shooting early Sunday morning.”
She called WPD Wednesday to inquire about details — a motive, if arrests had been made or suspects apprehended — but was told to call back later in the evening to connect with the case’s detective. The lady has lived downtown since 2004 and was particularly concerned that little information was being released.
“The public is not made aware of how far away the bullets hit,” she said. “Was this a random shooting or targeted?”
According to Willett, the gunfire was not random and though they have suspects in mind, no arrests have been made. The investigation remains ongoing.
The anonymous resident said safety has waxed and waned throughout her two decades being downtown but she thinks the area could be better protected.
“We do have a ton of little kids on my block,” she added. “That is a ‘new’ and good change for a residential downtown neighborhood trying to have quality of life for all of its neighbors.”
According to WPD’s 2022 statistics, crime has decreased 2% citywide, with violent crime dropping 6%. In the downtown area proper, 14 additional incidents were reported in 2022 and 37 more were clocked in the central business district from the prior year. Most were attributed to shoplifting, larcenies and breaking and entering of automobiles. Gunfire — 97 reports, 142 victims — was down overall by seven incidents and 26 fewer victims than 2021.
Willett told PCD officers don’t believe Sunday’s shooting is connected to another one that took place on Aug. 26 in the Water and Princess streets vicinity. The perpetrator, who also escaped, injured a 17-year-old who recovered.
Witnesses near Sunday’s downtown shooting — though not physically involved — have gone on the record with law enforcement, Willet said. Police ask anyone with more information, video recordings or potential evidence to call 910-343-3609 or use the anonymous Tip 411 app.
Tips or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.