CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At least 181 rounds were fired early during a shooting at an impromptu block party Monday morning that killed four people and hurt several others, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Police said nine people were shot -- three of which have died. The fourth victim died after being hit by a car.
Four others were hurt when cars hit them as they tried to run from the bullets.
CMPD said this all started around 12:30 a.m. when MEDIC responded to reports of a person hit by a car on Beatties Ford Road and Lasalle Street, near Catherine Simmons Avenue.
As soon as they arrived, shots were fired. Shortly after, officers found 29-year-old Kelly Miller with a gunshot wound lying in the roadway. The aspiring musician was pronounced dead at the scene.
Another gunshot victim, 28-year-old Christopher Gleaton, was taken to the hospital, but he later died from his injuries.
CMPD later said Jamaa Keon Cassell, 39, had also died at the hospital.
Police said a third gunshot victim, 31-year-old Dairyon Stevenson, died from his injuries Tuesday at the hospital.
Officials said six other people were shot and are being treated at local hospitals.
Five people in total were hit by cars. According to police, one person was the original victim officers were responding to while the other four were hit running for safety.
“There were so many people shooting,” witness Kevin Nash said. “Everyone was trying to get away. I lay down beside my car, trying to get under the car.”
Nash was running for cover when he saw a young woman get hit by gunfire.
“She tried to run across the street and collapsed, then the car hit her,” Nash said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers believe this started as an impromptu block party following a weekend celebration of Juneteenth.
Hundreds of people and cars were in the street and officials described it as a “very, very chaotic” scene. Officers said they were having to pull people off firefighters’ backs so they could respond to those in need of medical attention.
At a news conference Wednesday, Deputy Chief Gerald Smith addressed concerns about an officer being spotted carrying a rifle in the crowd during the incident. Smith said when the officer arrived, bullets were still flying so the officer was doing his job by trying to look for any threats to the public.
(In the video below, local activist Mario Black describes the chaotic scene that unfolded after shots were fired on Beatties Ford Road)
In a cellphone video sent to Channel 9, cars could be seen doing doughnuts and fireworks were being shot off.
At one point, someone was hit by a car and the video shows an ambulance arriving. Soon after, you can hear several gunshots, people running away chaotically and hiding in their cars.
Smith called the incident senseless.
Authorities said several shooters were involved and fired at least 181 rounds into the crowd, but at this point they do not have a possible motive.
However, they do have names of several people who have “popped up” during their investigation, according to Smith. He said they are making progress trying to identify the people involved, but they still need more info to make arrests.
CMPD said there were around 400 people in area at the time of the shooting and about 20 people have come forward with information.
There’s a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to arrests in the case.
Smith urged those who were at the scene to come forward, speak with officers or send in more videos to give families of the victims the closure they need. He said he understands they are in pain.
“We cannot feel that pain but we understand that it’s there. Because they had loved ones who were somewhere having a good time and celebrating and then they get that phone call in the middle of the night,” he said.
A makeshift memorial with balloons and flowers is starting to grow near the scene.
The community has been struggling for peace for years.
“It’s just not right,” neighbor Tavares Pratt said. “Just stop. Please stop.”
“We’re talking about 400 people in one spot, not one witness,” Smith said. “We have no one. “No one came up to us when we were still processing the scene, but it’s not too late if you really want to make a difference and really want to see what happened. If you care about the victims and their families and friends, then come forth.”
Incoming CMPD police chief, Chief Deputy Johnny Jennings, spoke early Monday morning after the shooting. He said he was emotionally impacted by what had happened.
“Several people got into the streets. It was a continuation,” Jennings said. “They had a celebration here that was planned and organized earlier this week on Friday that just continued on into tonight. The results of it got out of hand. It was something that we never want to see as a community or a police department. It is very unfortunate.”
Jennings called into the Charlotte City Council meeting Monday night to brief council members on the investigation.
He said the department is going through several videos from different sources and detectives are working hard to try and identify a suspects.
“We are in an uphill battle to try and get more information about what exactly occurred,” Jennings said.
In a statement on Twitter, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles urged anyone with information to come forward and for “everyone to find peaceful ways to settle disputes. Violence only leads to more suffering and pain.”
Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham, who serves the second district where the shooting happened, spoke to Eyewitness News anchor Brittney Johnson Monday morning.
He said the area has made so much progress and this entire incident really saddens him.
“This does not define us, but is certainly something very tragic,” Graham said. “What happened last night in the city and on that corner, which has a history of being self-sufficient, a lot of good work going on by neighborhood leaders and organizations. Last night certainly won’t define who we are, but certainly it is giving cause for concern about how we conduct ourselves.”
“It’s disturbing,” said Gemini Boyd, a community activist. “It’s every disturbing as a black man in this city. That bothered me.”
March for Peace
Monday afternoon, Million Youth March of Charlotte held a march on Beatties Ford Road.
On the release, organizers wrote “Black lives won’t matter to others until they matter to us.”
The march started at 2 p.m. at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. They walked peacefully and paused for a moment of silence at the site the shooting.
Kass Ottley, who is a mother of two, said she is frustrated and upset.
“It does hit you personally, because that could be your child and at the end of the day, that was someone else’s child.”
Mark Raley was at the rally. His cousin, Gleaton, was shot and killed.
“He was a family man out enjoying the festivities last night and was shot by someone who was mean and evil,” Raley said.
There were pleas for peace Monday afternoon on Beatties Ford Road.
“Reflect on yourself before you say, ‘Black lives matter,’” Raley said. “If I am a black man, black lives matter. It starts with me before I can explain it to someone else.”
Beatties Ford Road was closed for most of the day Monday between Dr. Webber Avenue and Lasalle Street while officers continue to investigate the shooting.
Police said residents should expect to see an increased presence of officers along Beatties Ford Road following Sunday night’s shooting.
This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information.
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