The search for a man who sprayed a church playground with gunfire this past Monday is underway in North Carolina. According to reports, four youths were struck, with one 12 year-old boy being gravely wounded.
The shooting happened shortly before 6 p.m. Monday at Word Tabernacle Church, as about two dozen neighborhood teens played basketball on courts behind the sanctuary.
The Rev. James Gailliard was in his office when he heard what he said to be more than 15 gunshots. When he ran outside, he saw that among those hit was 12-year-old Nyreek Horne, who was reportedly shot in the head.
“In our community, we do hear gunshots from time to time. But what was different this time was that it was so close and it was so many,” Gailliard said. “I held him in my arms until the paramedics got there. He was shot in the eye and the bullet went out the back of his brain. He was struggling to breathe, but he was fighting.”
Three males, ages 13, 17 and 19 were treated for their injuries and released. Horne remains hospitalized in critical condition.
According to witnesses, the shooter ran away and was seen getting into a small, light-colored SUV, although details on the suspect’s appearance were vague.
Police said it is too early to know whether the shooting was gang-related, but Gailliard said there is a widespread suspicion in the community that Monday’s shooting was in retaliation for a recent drive-by killing. According to the preacher, those involved are from different neighborhoods engaged in competition for turf.
“Unfortunately, in my time here I have funeralized a lot of young African-American males who died in violent situations,” the preacher said. “We put the basketball goals up and took the fence down specifically so the community could just walk on the premises and have a safe place to play. That trust has been violated.”