Vigils held following Albemarle High School shooting

by: Catherine Bilkey Updated:

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ALBEMARLE, N.C. - Police in Albemarle said one student was shot at Albemarle High School Tuesday morning.

IMAGES: Police: 1 shot at Albemarle High School

Albemarle Police Chief William Halliburton said the suspected shooter has been identified as Jalen Russell.

Halliburton said the shooting victim is 16-year-old Bernard Miller. Authorities corrected an earlier report that the victim was 17 years old.

Channel 9 talked to several people devastated to hear Miller was shot at his own school.

Social media updates: Police say 1 shot at Albemarle High School
   
Friends describe Miller as an outgoing, athletic young man who plays high school football. A friend of the victim's family said he had emergency surgery Tuesday and is expected to be OK. 

Channel 9 talked to a friend of Miller's who said she is grateful he survived and that none of the other students was hurt. 

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"Life can change just that fast in the blink of an eye. That could have been anybody,” said Kayla Frick.




Halliburton said at 7:40 a.m., police received a call from the high school in reference to shots being fired.

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: Shooting at Albemarle High School

They had officers on the scene within minutes.

When they arrived, they found one person had been shot, Halliburton said. The victim, who also was a student, was shot twice: once in the hip and once in the lower abdomen.

He said they had a suspect in custody immediately. The chief said the gunman immediately dropped the gun and surrendered.

Halliburton said the school resource officer, who is an Albemarle police officer, took the suspected gunman into custody. In a later press conference, Halliburton said the gunman dropped the gun, went inside the school and turned himself in to the principal.

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Vigils held following school shooting

There were two prayer vigils for the Albemarle community after the school shooting.  First Presbyterian Church held one at 5:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m., another service was held at North Albemarle Baptist Church.

IMAGES: Vigil at North Albemarle Baptist Church

After shots were fired on campus, students and parents were told to go to North Albemarle Baptist to be reunited.  

 “We were able to be a place for parents and students to connect and to find out what’s going on,” Rev. Brad Lynch said.

Tuesday night, Lynch wanted to again be a place for the community to connect. That’s why he decided to open up the church doors for a prayer vigil.

“It is such a close knit community,” student Taylor Ingle said. “It’s important for us to come together and talk about it and talk to your kids about it. Because it’s real, and it happens.”

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Ingle and her neighbor pulled up to the high school right after the shooting happened.

“We didn’t know if the shooter was still on campus,” Ingle said. “Three of my friends actually got in the car with us and we just drove off campus.”

She found out later the victim in the shooting is a classmate she’s known for years. She grew up with 16-year-old Bernard Miller.

“He’s a funny guy,” Ingle said. 

Her neighbor Justin Barrier described Miller as “nice and funny and cool.”

They hope he recovers quickly. People prayed for Miller at the vigil.


Students describe terrifying scene

Witnesses and police describe the shooting as a chaotic scene when students were getting off buses, others were milling in the courtyard and the hallways inside.

All of that was disrupted when gunshots rang out.

Police said Jalen Russell fired two shots striking Bernard Miller, 16, in the stomach and the hip.

“I just turned around and see him got shot like twice and he fell down on the floor,” one student said.



After the bullets came the screams of panic.

“They were pushing everybody toward the buses and I heard someone yell they were shooting,” another student said.

Albemarle police said one of their own, the school’s resource officer, was only 30 yards away when Russell fired.

“When you hear that shots fired at a school it’s our worst nightmare,” Halliburton said.

Police said the officer rushed first to the victim, and then inside where they said Russell was surrendering to the school's principal after laying his gun down on the ground outside

“The whole thing, from the shooting to being in the school with the suspect, was seconds,” Halliburton said.
 
Students and teachers were locked down in their classrooms for just over an hour before they were evacuated to a nearby church where tearful parents waited

“I was scared out of my wits, I really was,” said another student.

Security teams of officers swept the entire school before declaring the threat was over, but for many the lingering memories and fear are not over.

“I don't want to come to school tomorrow, I really don't, I don't really want to be here today,” another student said.



Police interviewing witnesses 

They are interviewing witnesses to see if any other students were outside. They do believe there were other witnesses to the shooting, the chief said.

Halliburton said every officer from the city, county and Highway Patrol responded to the scene within minutes. There were about 20 officers at the school.

The chief said the first thing they did was form teams to start searching for any active shooting that may be occurring while rescue teams helped care for any injured.



Halliburton said it went very smoothly.

He said he is thankful for the quick response and glad it ended quickly. He said the gunman could have done more.

Halliburton said that the Sheriff’s Office, EMS and school personnel all participated in an active shooter situation in July, so they felt well prepared.

While he is pleased with how officers reacted, Halliburton said lessons can always be learned.

"We will sit down with the school, the other government agencies who study these kinds of things and parents and talk about it, what went right and what went wrong,” he said.

The school has been closed for the day.

Students are using the hashtag #PrayersForAlbemarle on Twitter to leave messages for other students at the school.

According to the school’s website, the warning bell, which is the last bell before classes start, rang at 7:55 a.m.

There are a total of 466 students at the school.


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