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Police seek man who shot and killed high school student

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Gastonia police investigators spent Sunday trying to find the “acquaintance” who they say shot and killed a high school student in west Gastonia on Saturday.

Brandon Heath McCall, 17, a Hunter Huss High School senior, was shot near the intersection of Third Avenue and Robinson Street about 6 p.m. Saturday, police said. Fatally wounded, he drove about a block away before he crashed his car on West Garrison Boulevard.

Betty Rhyne and her daughter, Stephanie, ran to McCall’s red and gray Honda Civic to help. They told reporters at the scene they thought it was just a car crash at first and called police.

“I told them there was a wreck,” Betty Rhyne said. “I didn’t know the boy had been shot until the first police officer got on scene. Then I heard people saying there’s a bullet hole, there’s a bullet hole.”

Stephanie Rhyne also attends Hunter Huss.

The school is closed Monday for Veteran’s Day. Assistant Principal Jamie Peoples said grief counselors will be on hand Tuesday when students return. A candlelight vigil is also planned at the school’s spirit rock Tuesday at 6 p.m.

“I was hollering his name out, telling him he would be OK,” Betty Rhyne told reporters.

Police haven’t released a motive for the shooting. They had only a vague description of the shooting suspect: A man with a thin build, between 5-foot-9 and 6 feet and in his late teens or early 20s. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored hoodie.

Police said the incident wasn’t a random act of violence but haven’t detailed how they believe McCall knew the person who shot him or what he was doing in the moments before he was killed. They believe the man who shot McCall was an acquaintance.

People who knew the gregarious, popular teen said they didn’t know why anyone would want him dead.

“That’s so sad that he’s gone,” said Hannah Rangel, 17. “I would have never expected it whatsoever. He’s always trying to make people laugh. You can’t be in a down mood around him.”

Police encourage anyone with information to call Gastonia police at 704-866-6702 or Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at 704-861-8000.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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