Crime & Courts

911 tapes reveal chaos during Gaston County shooting

Charles Dean Thompson, a former Gaston County police officer, was shot and killed at his home on Balsam Court on Aug. 8. The suspected shooter was killed during a confrontation with police.
Charles Dean Thompson, a former Gaston County police officer, was shot and killed at his home on Balsam Court on Aug. 8. The suspected shooter was killed during a confrontation with police.

Cowering inside a neighbor’s bathroom Saturday night, Debra Childress told a 911 dispatcher to send help fast. A man had killed her friend, then shot her in the arm. Now he was going house-to-house looking for her.

Gaston County Police on Monday released 911 recordings connected to a shooting that left three people injured and two dead, including the man police identified as the gunman, Jeffrey Clyde Wilkes.

Police say Wilkes shot and killed Charles Dean Thompson, a former Gaston County police officer, and also shot Childress in the arm. Two officers who responded to the 911 calls were also shot by Wilkes before several officers shot and killed him. Gaston County police identified the officers as T. M. Leopard and C. M. Belli.

The 911 recordings provide snapshots of the chaos surrounding the shootings in a quiet community just south of Gastonia. Thompson’s stepson told a 911 dispatcher that Thompson had been gunned down and that the shooter was in the house. A neighbor told police she heard a volley of gunshots then rushed her children into a bathroom. And after calling 911, Childress urged officers to hurry, before whispering that she feared Wilkes was in the house.

The first call comes from Thompson’s stepson, who was apparently in the home on Balsam court when the killing happened.

“There’s been shots fired, my stepdad’s been gunned down,” the man says.

Later, yelling can be heard in the background.

“He’s in the house. He’s in the house. ... The gunman,” the caller says. “He just killed my dad. He just killed my dad.”

Meanwhile Childress had fled to a neighbor’s house where she went into a bathroom, hid, then called 911.

“He’s breaking in and he’s going to start shooting more,” she told the dispatcher.

Later, she tells someone else in the home: “Please lock the door. Lock the door. Please just get over here. Lock the door, he’ll get in here and it’ll make it worse.”

At one point a man’s voice can be heard saying “Where you at?”

Thompson’s stepson wasn’t injured. Police located Childress inside the neighbor’s house and she was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries. The officers are also expected to recover.

Investigators have not said why they believe Wilkes began shooting.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson

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