Crime & Courts

Suspect and victim were both riding CMS school bus just before shooting, police say

When Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police responded to reports of gunfire near a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus stop Monday afternoon, they couldn’t find any victims at first, CMPD Lt. Steve Fischbach said Tuesday.

It turns out that the gunshot victim, a 16-year-old male CMS student, went to his family’s home before heading to the hospital in an ambulance, Fischbach said.

The victim is expected to survive, but so far, he’s refusing to cooperate with the investigation, Fischbach said.

Without information from the student, Fischbach said police have pieced together a narrative from witness interviews and surveillance footage. No one has been arrested, and police are not releasing the name of any potential suspects.

According to the police report, the victim attends Ram Academy, an off-site location of Harding University High School for students who are trying to get back on a timeline to graduate.

He was getting off the bus near the intersection of Timberbrook Drive and Tuckaseegee Road when the shooting occurred. A CMS spokesman said that bus serves Harding and Phillip O. Berry high schools.

The alleged shooter is apparently high school-aged and was also on the school bus just before the shooting, Fischbach said.

“There are no indications of any kind of disagreement or altercation on the bus, before the drop-off,” he said.

Asked whether a gun was on the bus before the shooting, Fischbach told a reporter “that would be left to your own deduction.”

The bus pulled away from its stop before the shots were fired, Fischbach said.

“And at that point, there were kids running everywhere,” he said.

CMS Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ said it is not yet clear whether anyone had a gun at school or on the bus. “That is part of the ongoing police investigation,” he said. “CMPD has so far indicated that there is not clarity on where the gun used may have been located prior to the incident.”

Russ said no messages about the shooting have been sent to families because “this was an incident that happened after school hours, off of school grounds and away from the school bus.”

At Tuesday’s school board meeting Superintendent Clayton Wilcox voiced frustration that people are speculating about what happened before the investigation is complete. He said CMS is continuing with new safety efforts, including upcoming searches for guns at randomly selected high schools.

“It really is a community effort. It’s not a CMS effort alone,” Wilcox said. “We know we must work together to keep weapons out of our schools.”

Police ask anyone with information about what happened to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

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Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester

Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.