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By MICHAEL BIESECKER
Jan. 28, 2014 3:19 PM EST
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Police in a North Carolina town are searching for a man who sprayed a church playground with gunfire, striking four youths and leaving a 12-year-old boy gravely wounded.
The Rev. James Gailliard at Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount said the shooting happened shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, as about two dozen neighborhood teens played basketball on courts behind the sanctuary.
Gailliard was in his office when he heard more than 15 gunshots and ran outside. Among those hit was 12-year-old Nyreek Horne, who the preacher said was shot in the head. He cradled the bleeding boy until help arrived.
"In our community, we do hear gunshots from time to time. But what was different this time was that it was so close and it was so many," Gailliard said. "I held him in my arms until the paramedics got there. He was shot in the eye and the bullet went out the back of his brain. He was struggling to breathe, but he was fighting."
Police said Tuesday that Horne remained in critical condition.
Three other young males shot - ages 13, 17 and 19 - were all treated and released.
Witnesses could provide only a vague description of the shooter, who ran away and was seen getting into a small, light-colored SUV. Rocky Mount police are asking members of public to come forward with any information that might help lead them to a suspect.
It was the latest shooting in a small Southern city dealing with violent crime on a scale typical in more urban areas. The shooting at the church happened days after a funeral for 15-year-old Brian Freeman, who was walking home with a friend when a car pulled up and someone started firing.
A city of nearly 60,000 located about 50 miles east of Raleigh, Rocky Mount sits along Interstate 95 - a primary north-south corridor for moving drugs and illegal guns between major East Coast cities. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI crime statistics are available, the murder rate in Rocky Mount was more than twice that of New York City.
The Rocky Mount police force has a sizable gang awareness and prevention program. The city council has instituted anti-graffiti measures and a local "Youth Protection Ordinance" that includes a nightly curfew barring those under 15 from gathering in public without adult supervision.
"We're experiencing many of the problems many other communities are experiencing with gang violence, and we are addressing that," said Cpl. Michael Lewis, a police spokesman. "There's age groups from middle school on up through high school involved in this type of activity."
Lewis said it is too early in the investigation to know whether the latest shooting involved a gang-related dispute, but Gailliard said there is a widespread suspicion in the community that Monday's mass shooting was in retaliation for the recent drive-by killing.
Those involved are from different neighborhoods engaged in competition for turf, the preacher said. Gailliard moved south from Philadelphia nine years ago to found the church. Part of his congregation's ministry involves reaching out to young people who live near the church.
Gailliard said he had never seen Horne before he was shot, but he has since met the boy's family at the hospital. He organized a vigil on Tuesday to pray for the boy's recovery and an end to the violence. He said people there are often distrustful of the police, but he was encouraging people to tell the detectives what they know.
"Unfortunately, in my time have I have funeralized a lot of young African-American males who died in violent situations," the preacher said. "We put the basketball goals up and took the fence down specifically so the community could just walk on the premises and have a safe place to play. That trust has been violated."
No place is safe anymore...Pretty said when NYC is safer than a place like that.
And it's probably because NYC has more restrictive gun laws than NC. Ding!
Chicago has the most restrictive gun laws anywhere are the most murders. Dong!
the facts do not support the comment! just saying
When I was growing up we had the Vietnam war going on and people had better things to do , Like worrying if you were going to get drafted to fight a war that was a waste of a lot of good men's lives, I really don't understand the youth to day why is their so killings going !
No place is safe anymore, sometime you wander what goeas through a persons mind when they are having trouble and want to hurt people who have no clue of what is going on. Our world today has forgotten it's morals and ethics. So sad.
So sad. Sending prayers to all.
Prayers for the victim and his family. Very sad a young man playing ball at a church is not safe.
When descent people fail to take action to protect their own communities and leave the job to pitifully small police departments to do it for them, they are bound to fail at being safe. It takes a community working together to say "NO" we arent' going to take this from anybody and they need to get out on the streets and literally "take them back" from thugs, gangs and criminals. When people do nothing, criminals and crime flourish.... When we have courts that fail to punish and hold these degenerates accountable, we have a serious second problem.
I have seen it work in some tough cities, that when the community teams up with local law enforcement, violent crime decreases.
Violent crime in none of these neighborhoods will ever decrease until the people that live there start demanding their own children stop acting like animals,instead of demanding the police lock up everybody ELSE's children.Most of these people grew up in and live in a culture where nothing is ever their fault,it is always the fault of the "white devil" or somebody else. When they fix themselves,they can fix their neighborhoods.
It just moves somewhere else doesn't it?
This is just so sad but even worse where are the "leaders" of the "community" and their plan to get down to it and stop this crap.
There aren't any leaders. There's a lot of s--t stirrers, but no leaders. Why doesn't Obama speak out against all the violence. He didn't have any problem talking about the Trayvon Martin case but he doesn't say jack about all the innocent kids getting killed in Chicago and everywhere else. How come he doesn't take the bull by the horns and come up with some ideas?
its black gang members shooting at the church because the church is trying to keep the young black youth out of the gangs, that how the gang bangers act when you try to disrupt there efforts, no im not racist , its just how it is.
No, you're not a racist, you watch too much TV.
no dumb ass i live here every day.
Yeah, you're not racist, just personality conscious. Right?
Can't go shopping, can't go to the movies, can't go to school, can't go to church, can't mind my business while just walking the street. Is it just my imagination, or are the most evil terrorists right here in the USA born and raised taking away our freedom????
when God is taken away in everything and Satan takes over these are the result. Let the people seek the Lord again for He may have mercy upon our Land
Nonsense - I go shopping and theaters every week, these rouge shootings (NOT TO INCLUDE CITIES LIKE CHICAGO WITH GANGS, DRUGS, VIOLENT CRIME, PROSTITUTION....AND SO ON.......AND VERY STRICT GUN CONTROLS) make up only 1% of shootings in the US. I'm talking about hometown American and NOT GANGLAND AND DRUGLAND, a difference the liberal media would not want you to understand and puts great effort to mislead- SUCH AS THIS ARTICLE.