School shooting suspect's family says he was bullied

By: Tina Terry


ALBEMARLE, N.C. - Students returned to Albemarle High School Wednesday just 24 hours after gunshots rang out on campus.

Classmate Bernard Miller remains in a Charlotte hospital after, police said, 15-year-old Jalen Russell shot him twice in front of the school.

Some students told Channel 9 reporter Tina Terry it was hard for them to walk through the doors after Tuesday’s shooting.

FULL COVERAGE: Student shot at Albemarle High School
Students said there was a lot of raw emotion inside the school as teens thought about their classmate who was shot.

Police said Miller was shot two times in the courtyard after getting into an argument days ago.

"My dad is the fire marshal, so he was standing out here this morning. So it was easy for me to walk back in school this morning knowing he was out here and we were safe,” said student Lainey Taylor.

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Students made banners and placed them around the school in honor of Miller.

Russell’s family told Channel 9 the teen had been taunted and bullied for days. Russell’s grandmother said he took a gun from her house to Albemarle High School and shot Miller before class.

The grandmother said bullies sent her grandson a disturbing text Tuesday before school. She said they threatened to beat him up that day at school and even to kill him.

IMAGES: Police: 1 shot at Albemarle High School

Before Russell ever arrived at school, his family members said, he was already worried about what Miller might do to him.

They said Miller and other kids at the school had taunted Russell for days.

"He's always just had a hard time in school. He was being bullied in school,” his grandmother said.

PHOTO TIMELINE: Shooting at Albemarle High School

But Russell's uncle, Sherard Wall, said he didn't realize how bad things had gotten.

"He always said kids would pick on him, but I didn't know it was this serious," said Wall.

He told his mother about the text, and she called the school that morning and left a message.

IMAGES: Vigil at North Albemarle Baptist Church

But they didn't realize Russell had already searched the family home, found a hidden gun and was taking it to school.

Police said that around 7:40 a.m. he got into an argument with Miller and shot him two times.

"I was devastated. I was devastated, Jalen's a great kid,” Wall said.    

Wall said he's not upset that his nephew defended himself, but he's disappointed that he used a gun.

Social media updates: Police say 1 shot at Albemarle High School

"I think he didn't think things through. Sometimes you have to walk away. Scars will scab, bruises will heal, and pride and ego -- it all gets the best of everybody,” Wall said.

Channel 9 reached out to a family friend of the victim to see how Miller is doing and to get their reaction to the bullying claims, but hasn't heard back.
Russell's uncle said he's praying for Miller's recovery.  

Channel 9 asked the suspect's uncle about a case of violence at Russell’s last school.   

"He said the guy was picking at him and put a banana peel over his head or something," Wall said.

He said he wishes Russell would've talked to him first before taking matters into his own hands.

"Standing up to a bully is the right thing to do but doing it the way he handled it, it's very extreme. Sometimes you have to walk away," he said.

Police are looking over footage from 40 cameras placed around the school in case of situations like this one.

Channel 9 also learned a new panic-button system was just installed in all Stanly County schools.
The superintendent said it was used during Tuesday's emergency.


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