RALEIGH, NC — Police believe the shooting that left five people dead in the North Carolina capital began last week when the 15-year-old suspect shot his older brother, according to a report released Thursday.
More details about the shooting emerged from the preliminary report of four pages which the Raleigh Police Chief provided to the city manager. Such summaries are written within five business days of a shooting involving an officer.
Those who died in the Oct. 13 shooting included an off-duty city police officer who lived in the city Hedingham district where the shooting started, according to police. Two others were injured, one of them another resident of the community who is in a critical but stable condition, the report said.
Witnesses had described a gunman wearing camouflage clothing, which the report corroborated, and firing a shotgun into the subsection and along a nearby hiking trail.
Police said the suspect – still not named in the report because he is a minor but has been identified by his parents this week – was trapped in a shed-like structure more than four hours after the first emergency call. The report said the teen had traveled nearly 3 miles from where his brother was shot and stabbed. Police said they exchanged shots with the teen and one officer was injured. The officer was treated in hospital and released that evening.
According to the report, officers repeatedly ordered the suspect to surrender and special agents attempted to determine his exact location. The police eventually decided to advance towards the building where he was found.
When officers arrested the teen, he was found to have a single gunshot wound and a gun in his waistband. A shotgun and grenades were nearby, the report said. There was no description of how he obtained the weapons or how he was injured.
The report was released the same day the first memorial service for victims was held at a Raleigh church — where a basketball jersey and shorts were placed atop a closed coffin.
James Thompson, 16, the youngest of the dead and brother of Austin Thompson, “just got to that age when the whole world opened up to him,” Trinity Baptist Church senior pastor Jeff Roberts said at the service.
“And we remember his life – a life full of joy and laughter and experiences that shaped him and shaped his future,” the pastor said.
When he was younger, James Thompson was a calm and smiling Sunday school presence, but a fierce player in the church’s basketball program. He was a kid who picked up, cleaned, and resold used golf balls on the golf course.
As he got older, the teenager developed an interest in cooking and tried new ideas after watching YouTube videos of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. The teenager loved deep sea fishing. And he started thinking about studying, possibly at nearby North Carolina State University.
“We don’t want this moment to define James’ life,” the pastor said. “Some of the events of the past week will be part of his story. But I want you to know it’s not his whole story.”
Roberts also said aloud the names of the other victims.
“We’re a community that mourns, mourns with this family and so many other families,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Austin Thompson remains in critical condition, the report said. His mother said on Wednesday that he had been transferred to a children’s ICU. The top local prosecutor has said she will try to indict the youth as adults.
The teen had a backpack containing various ammunition for rifles and shotguns, the report said, and the scabbard for a large knife was clipped to his belt. A hunting knife was found in front of the outhouse where he was captured, police said.
Based on the teen’s estimated direction of travel, police believe James Thompson was shot first, the report said.
“The collective motive for these attacks is still unknown,” Chief Estella Patterson’s report said, adding that there appears to be no connection between the victims shot by the suspect before he met police, other than that they were all in lived nearby.
According to the report, emergency communications services received a call at 5:09 p.m. based on multiple shots fired near the nearby golf course.
Minutes later, a 911 caller reported hearing gunshots and seeing two victims shooting in front of a house on the same street where the 16-year-old was discovered in a residence. Police believe the teen shot Marcille Lynn Gardner, who was found injured in the driveway, then shot Nicole Connors, 52, who lived in the house. Connors was shot on her porch and later died. Gardner, 60, remains in the hospital.
Shortly after, off-duty Raleigh police officer Gabriel Torres was shot in his car on another nearby street as he was about to leave for work, the report said. Torres, 29, later died in hospital.
Then the teen fled to the Neuse River Greenway Trail, the report said, where minutes later a 911 caller found two more victims along the trail who died on the spot. They were Mary Marshall, 34, who was walking her dog, and Susan Karnatz, 49, who was on the run.
Officers who had flooded the area found the teen just over an hour later in an area with two barn-like structures. At the time, police said they believe he shot at officers from one of the buildings and several officers returned fire. The Raleigh Police Department estimated that their officers fired 23 rounds. Two city officials who unloaded their firearms have been placed with administrative duties.
The parents of the two teenagers released a statement earlier this week saying they are “overcome with grief” and saw no warning signs that “Austin was capable of doing such a thing.” A family lawyer did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment on the report.