RALEIGH, N.C. - A 15-year-old boy fatally shot two people in the streets of a neighborhood in North Carolina's capital city, then fled toward a walking trail, where he opened fire, killing three more people and wounding two others, police said Friday.
Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson said the suspect was hospitalized in critical condition following the shootings late Thursday afternoon.
The victims were a racially diverse group and ranged in age from 16 to their late 50s, Patterson said during a news conference. Among the dead was an off-duty Raleigh police officer, Gabriel Torres, 29, who was on his way to work when the shooting began. Police identified the other victims as: Nicole Conners, 52; Mary Marshall, 34; Susan Karnatz, 49; and James Roger Thompson, 16.
Marcille Lynn Gardner, 59, was wounded and remained hospitalized in critical condition Friday. A second police officer, Casey Joseph Clark, 33, was wounded and released from the hospital.
Aerial photo of North Carolina mass shooting scene (FOX)
The suspect, who was not immediately identified by police, eluded officers for hours before he was cornered in a home and arrested, police said. Officials have not said how the suspect was injured.
The shootings set off a massive police response and manhunt, with police scouring an area of more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) to find and capture the suspect, Patterson said. She said authorities have not yet determined any motive.
Gov. Roy Cooper called the shooting an "infuriating and tragic act of gun violence."
"Today we’re sad, we’re angry and we want to know the answers to all the questions," Cooper said. "I think we all know the core truth — no neighborhood, no parent, no child, no grandparent, no one should feel this fear in their communities — no one."
The gunfire broke out around 5 p.m. in a residential area northeast of downtown, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. Officers from numerous law enforcement agencies swarmed the area, closing roads and warning residents to stay inside while they searched for the shooter.
The Neuse River Greenway runs just behind the backs of houses in the Hedingham neighborhood where the shooting began. The trail runs about 27 miles (43 kilometers) along the river and connects to the state’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail that’s popular with thru-hikers. The stretch behind the neighborhood is paved and lies down a grassy slope from the houses.
Woodrow Glass, a 74-year-old retiree, was a neighbor of Conners in the neighborhood where the shooting happened.
"Oh, she’s a great lady," Glass said. "I mean, she was friendly with everybody in the neighborhood, spoke with everybody, had conversations with everybody, and was really respected here. And we’re going to miss her. We’re truly going to miss her."
Glass said the shooting illustrates the need for policies to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles. While the type of weapon used wasn’t clear, Glass noted that the gun had enough power to cause multiple deaths.
"Why would a kid have a gun like that? That he could cause that many deaths, you know?" Glass said.
Under North Carolina law, crimes committed by a 15-year-old are usually adjudicated in juvenile court. But a juvenile court judge must transfer the case to Superior Court for the youth to be tried as an adult if the 15-year-old is accused of first-degree murder and determines there is probable cause that the suspect committed the crime. Authorities have not commented on what charges the suspect could face.
The Raleigh shooting was the latest in a violent week across the country. Five people were killed Sunday in a shooting at a home in Inman, South Carolina. On Wednesday night two police officers were fatally shot in Connecticut after apparently being drawn into an ambush by an emergency call about possible domestic violence. Police officers have been shot this week in Greenville, Mississippi; Decatur, Illinois; Philadelphia, Las Vegas and central Florida. Two of those officers, one in Greenville and one Las Vegas, were killed.
Thursday’s violence was the 25th mass killing in 2022 in which the victims were fatally shot, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database. A mass killing is defined as when four or more people are killed excluding the perpetrator.
Brooke Medina, who lives in the neighborhood bordering the greenway, was driving home at around 5:15 p.m. when she saw about two dozen police cars, both marked and unmarked, race toward the residential area about 9 miles (14 kilometers) from Raleigh’s downtown. She then saw ambulances speeding the other direction, toward the closest hospital.
Freeze from live footage at the scene of an active shooting situation in Raleigh, North Carolina. (FOX TV Stations)
She and her husband, who was working from home with their four children, started reaching out to neighbors and realized there was a shelter-in-place order.
The family closed all of their window blinds, locked the doors and congregated in an upstairs hallway together, said Medina, who works as a communications vice president at a think tank. The family listened to the police scanner and watched local news before going back downstairs once the danger seemed to have moved farther away from their home.
She described the neighborhood known as Hedingham as a sprawling, dense, tree-lined community that’s full of single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes that are more moderately priced compared to other parts of the Raleigh area.