A 17-year-old faces multiple felony charges related to a shooting Friday at Gastonia’s Eastridge Mall that injured three people and set off a massive police response.
GEMS reported it transported three people to CaroMont Regional Medical Center with gunshot wound injuries. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
During the initial response, witnesses told officers that a possible suspect was seen running from the mall and into a nearby wooded area. Gastonia (NC) Police officers found the 17-year-old in the wooded area, along with a nearby handgun.
Police took the teenager into custody without incident and after interviewing him charged him with multiple felony offenses related to the multi-casualty shooting at the Eastridge Mall. Police did not release the name of the teen suspected in the shootings because of his age.
The District Attorney’s Office will have to ask a judge for permission on whether to charge the juvenile as an adult.
Detectives continue to work to determine a motive for these shootings. Police are also trying to determine if any relationships exist between the suspect and the three people who were shot.
Police now say all of those injured in the shooting were shot in the mall parking lot and that the victims fled inside to the food court area of the mall after being shot.
Detectives have also now determined that a male victim, who was believed to have been the fourth person shot in this incident and who self-transported to a hospital in Charlotte, was not shot during the Eastridge Mall incident. This individual is now believed to have been shot in a neighboring jurisdiction, according to police.
Gastonia Police officers with guns drawn swarmed the Eastridge Mall after the 911 call came in at 12:10 pm
Emergency workers first located an adult male outside the mall near the food court suffering from a gunshot wound. Officers were told that there were additional victims inside the food court area of the mall. Officers entered the mall and located an adult female and an adult male suffering from gunshot wounds.
Officers then went through the mall store by store to help workers and shoppers exit safely.
“Thank God, none of the injuries are life-threatening,” Police Chief Travis Brittain said.
Police have turned the mall over to the business, but it was not immediately clear when the mall would re-open.
Gerardo Ugalde of Gastonia said that he was in the DMV when he heard three to four gunshots: “Bang! Bang! Bang!”
“And then the people running and screaming and crying,” he said.
Ugalde saw two of the people who were shot — a young man, with what appeared to be wounds in his arm and his leg, and a young woman around the same age with a wound in her leg.
As other people ran, “I was frozen,” Ugalde said.
Brett Benfield of Dallas said that he was in the Bath and Body Works when employees shut the store down. He and other customers waited in the back for around 20 minutes, until, he said, “they told us we needed to evacuate.”
By that time, he said, police were flooding the parking lot. Benfield said he thought initially that someone had brought a gun to the mall and others had overreacted. When he heard three people had been shot, he was shocked.
“It just blows my mind that something like this could happen in Gaston County,” Benfield said.
Gazette Photo Editor Mike Hensdill saw GEMS removing two people in gurneys from the Food Court side of the mall. The DMV office is near the mall’s Food Court.
Forty or more officers responded to the scene, including tactical teams.
You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-201-7016 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.