A man running from police after a suspected home invasion early Wednesday was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with an officer in a northwest Charlotte neighborhood, police said.
The injured man, identified as 21-year-old Christopher Michael Fortson, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center for surgery. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said he would be taken to jail once discharged from the hospital.
Police said that as Fortson tried to flee, he turned and fired a handgun at Officer Joshua Baswell, whod run after him. Baswell was not injured.
Fortson faces multiple charges, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon on an officer and armed robbery. Three other men and a woman also were charged in connection with the home invasion.
Police said some of the suspects are part of a group thats been involved in criminal activity for years.
Theyre (a) group of individuals that (weve) been watching over a while, Police Chief Rodney Monroe told Observer news partner WCNC-TV. Looks like were going to finally be able to get them off the street.
Just before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, police responding to a report of gunfire went to the 400 block of West Avenue, off Rozzelles Ferry Road in the Todd Park neighborhood. As police were heading to the scene, they learned that a break-in also was taking place at a house in the neighborhood.
A woman who lives near the scene told the Observer she was taken aback when a neighbor pounded on her front door at 12:22 a.m., frantically yelling for help. The woman, who gave only her first name, Joan, said she had heard three gunshots fired shortly beforehand.
He came banging on my door saying, Let me in! Let me in! said Joan, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.
She identified the neighbor as Chris, adding that he called 911 from her house. Public records list a Christopher Hunter, 28, as living at the address of the break-in.
Joan said her neighbor told her that a group of people had broken into his house and demanded money at gunpoint. When he told them he didnt have any money, they took his cellphone and shot his television, she said.
The neighbor told her he had been chased out of the house while the robbers shot at him, so he jumped a fence surrounding the yard, tried to hide behind a shed and finally ran to her front porch.
When officers arrived, they found four men outside the residence, police said. They began questioning the men, but one man ran. Baswell, a CMPD officer since January 2010, chased after him. Police said Fortson, the fleeing man, turned and fired a shot at Baswell. The bullet missed him.
The subject turned around with a handgun, and he fired a shot at our officer, Deputy Police Chief Kerr Putney said. That officer returned fire.
Fortson fired once and Baswell fired twice, striking Fortson each time, police said.
Police said Baswell, a patrol officer in CMPDs Freedom Division, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the departments internal investigation into whether police procedures were followed during the incident. That is standard protocol.
Meanwhile, three other men found at the scene Ryan Michael Sumpter, 21, Ryan Christopher Munsey, 20, and Irving Alfonso Lopez, 21 each face charges of armed robbery, conspiracy and burglary, police said.
Another suspect detained at the scene, Bridget Nicole Bowen, 17, was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery. Her child was inside a nearby car, according to reports.
Lt. Lisa Carriker, a response area commander in the Freedom Division, said police are very familiar with three of the men arrested in the incident. She said theyre part of a larger group that has been causing trouble in the area for years.
They grew up here, Carriker said. Weve been dealing with some of them since they were juveniles.
Initially, police came into contact with them for annoying neighbors. But over the years, their actions have escalated into criminal activity, Carriker said.
Fortsons criminal record dates back to 2007, when he was 16 years old. Hes faced dozens of charges, but many have been dismissed. He has been convicted of felony larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of drug paraphernalia, drug possession and giving fictitious information to an officer, records show.
He was placed on probation for the motor vehicle larceny conviction, but his probation was later revoked and he was sent to prison for about two months in 2010.
Fortson is currently on unsupervised probation as a result of a conviction earlier this year for possessing drug paraphernalia, according to court records.
The other men arrested in Wednesdays incident also have criminal records.
Munsey, a felon, has been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana and breaking and entering a vehicle.
Sumpter has been convicted of misdemeanor breaking and entering and larceny. Lopez has been convicted of disorderly conduct and marijuana possession, both misdemeanors.
According to their Facebook pages, Fortson, Munsey and Sumpter went to West Mecklenburg High School.
On a profile for Chris Fortson, he appears to discuss marijuana, writing on June 22, Wur is the bud? and then telling someone to brang me the ganja
Munsey, on his Facebook page, wrote earlier this month: hell yeh i got that ------- ankel breclet off!
Carriker said some of the suspects have participated in crimes as a group and individually, and some are identified as members or associates of a gang in the area.
She described Wednesdays arrests as huge, saying that investigators began focusing their attention on this group earlier this year after noticing an uptick in crimes, particularly home break-ins.
Carriker said residents in neighborhoods are often afraid to come forward with information about the suspects.
Sometimes it does take us a while to make a huge impact on these groups , she said. If people work with us, and they have some patience, we usually end up getting something done about them.
Staff writer April Bethea and researcher Marion Paynter contributed.