'She just touched everybody’: Loved ones say final goodbyes to teen killed in Concord Mills shooting

'She just touched everybody': Loved ones say final goodbyes to 13-year-old girl killed in Concord Mills shooting

CONCORD, N.C. — Family and friends of a 13-year-old girl said their final goodbyes Saturday, a week after her murder at the Concord Mills Mall.

“A sweet, inspiring young lady, a cousin, a daughter. They will always remember her for her brilliantness,” said the 13-year-old’s aunt, Brenda Propst.

Aveanna Propst was hit by a stray bullet last Saturday in the mall parking lot after police said she was caught in a fight between two groups.

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Two other teen boys were also shot, but survived.

Hundreds of people packed Barber Scotia College in Concord Saturday afternoon to honor Aveanna. A visitation was scheduled for 1 p.m., and the funeral was at 2 p.m.

“She just touched everybody. I saw her grow up, and it just breaks my heart,” said Propst.

Police announced Friday they charged a second suspect in the deadly shooting.

Officers said they arrested a 15-year-old boy on charges of first-degree murder and felony riot.

(Concord Police Department)

They said he’s an acquaintance of 18-year-old Dontae Milton-Black, who was already charged in the case.

Officials said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team arrested Milton-Black Wednesday morning.

Milton-Black has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of felony riot.

The shooting happened just before 9 p.m. last Saturday in the parking lot of Dave and Buster’s.

Police said Aveanna was pronounced dead at the scene and two other male juvenile victims were taken to the hospital. Officials said the boys, who are under the age of 16, are expected to be OK.

Police said Aveanna and the two boys were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Channel 9 spoke with Aveanna’s mother who said she was on her way to Concord Mills to pick up her three daughters Saturday when the shooting happened.

She said the girls were at the mall buying shoes with money they got for Christmas when they called her to say they were ready to go home.

The mother said she was parking her car when she got a frantic call from her older daughter saying that Aveanna had been shot in the parking lot.

She said she ran to the area and found Aveanna on the ground.

Channel 9 speaks with mother of 13-year-old girl shot, killed at Concord Mills

On Tuesday, Concord Mills released a statement: “We continue to gather facts regarding the incident which we don’t believe started in the common area space of Concord Mills.

"With that said, safety at Concord Mills is our top priority.

"We are Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Safety Act certified – the country’s highest safety designation. We have a number of proactive security measures in place, both seen and unseen. We conduct multiple safety drills each year, one of which is always an active shooter drill. Every tenant is strongly encouraged to participate in these drills.

"Every tenant also receives and confirms receipt of a Tenant Emergency Guide and, as part of our Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), we ensure they each have an up-to-date emergency plan in place.

"We also maintain a close working relationship with the Concord Police Department and have a collaborating police sub-station on-site to help provide and maintain a safe environment at our property.”

Police released some 911 calls Monday night made after the shooting.

“We’ve had a shooting at Concord Mills Mall,” a caller told a 911 dispatcher. “We have kids that have been shot outside.”

The dispatcher asked how many people were shot.

“I have one I know of that has been shot in the arm, right now,” the caller said. “OK, right outside Dave and Buster’s.”

(WSOC)

Aveanna attended A.C.E Academy Public Charter School in Harrisburg, North Carolina. School leaders said she was in 8th grade and was set to graduate this year. They said this incident is devastating for their school family.

Officials said they will have counseling resources and professionals in place to support students, staff and families as they grieve.

A.C.E ACADEMY STATEMENT:

This is devastating for our school family and it is important that we continue to support each other.

Aveanna,13, was an 8th grader at A.C.E {ACE} Academy Public Charter School.

Aveanna was scheduled to graduate from our school this year and this is devastating to all of us. She was a popular girl in the school and the news spread quickly among our school family. She’s a baby, she’s 13-years-old. This is hard to process, accept, or even understand. We support our families in and out of school and anytime one of our children suffer, we all suffer. We will support Aveanna’s family for as long as it takes to get through these painful, unimaginable times.

Our Student and Family Service Director was at the hospital Saturday night once we found out Aveanna was involved. It was chaotic because there were multiple shootings. We did what we could to gather information as quickly as possible. Very early on, our students were contacting their teachers with questions about the tragic incident because so much inappropriate and false information was shared on social media.

We have counseling resources and counseling professionals in place to support our 400 students, 50 staff members and all of their families. Our work began late Saturday night when the news started to circulate.

Channel 9 had a chance to speak with one of Aveanna’s best friends and classmates, Laila Massey, who said she had a message for the person responsible.

“I feel like she didn’t deserve what she had to go through and she was in the place at the wrong time,” Massey said. “I feel like the person who did it should turn themselves in.”

Massey said Aveanna loved to dance, play basketball and was always laughing.

“She always cared for people,” Massey said. “She always showed motivation and think positive.”

School leaders said they are also working on a memorial in honor of Aveanna on the school’s property.

(Concord Police Department)

Authorities said it was not an active shooter situation.

Concord police said the shooting started as a verbal altercation between a 16-year-old boy and Milton-Black in a common area inside the mall.

As the altercation escalated, the 16-year-old saw Milton-Black flash a gun that was in this clothing. Authorities said the group was directed out of the mall, but the 16-year-old, who said he was fearful Milton-Black had a gun, exited through Dave and Buster’s to the parking lot.

Police said Milton-Black saw the 16-year-old outside Dave and Buster’s and started firing in his direction, hitting the two juvenile male victims and killing Aveanna.

After being shot, the two victims ran into Dave and Buster’s for protection and to get medical help.

Shortly after the shooting, police released surveillance photos of Milton-Black. He had been seen wearing a red and white checked hoodie. He was seen before the shooting in the mall parking lot displaying a gun and according to witnesses, he was seen firing the weapon in the direction of Dave and Buster’s.

Witnesses described to Channel 9′s DaShawn Brown the chaotic scene as the shooting unfolded.

A mall employee described hundreds of people running through the mall and the parking lot in an attempt to get away. Another witness said he took off his belt to use as a tourniquet for a teenage boy who was shot in the arm.

6 p.m.: Police release surveillance photos of 'person of interest? in deadly Concord Mills Mall shooting

“And then out of nowhere, it just happens when you hear screams, commotion, stomping,” mall customer Osvaldo Riva said.

He said he was with his wife and daughter in the mall.

“I grab my daughter, and we kind of get in between the virtual reality machines, you know, hiding just in case,” Riva said.

“The police and sheriff came with their guns drawn because they didn’t know if it was an active shooter,” witness Jason Warren said. “It’s sad you can’t come out to a restaurant and have a nice, peaceful evening.”

Officers set up an area for parents to pick up their children in the parking lot of the Sea Life Aquarium after the shooting. Parents had to enter through the Carolina Lilly entrance because all other entrances to the mall were closed.

An employee said staff at the mall are concerned because the mall was never placed in lockdown.

They said they had no direction on what to do for a crisis like the one on Saturday.

Many employees took it upon themselves and shut gates to the stores.

“I was looking to a store, like, ‘Should I run in there? Should I run over here,’ but they started slamming all the gates and locking them, so there was nowhere to get in and out,” Riva said.

Channel 9 spoke with another employee at the mall who said they witnessed part of the initial fight in Concord Mills that escalated to gun violence in the parking lot.

We agreed not to identify the witness.

“We were all talking about how uneasy we were from probably eight o'clock on, before this even took place, probably before eight o'clock,” the person said. “The behavior of the kids was very volatile.”

The employee described movement among two groups of teens that resembled a standoff.

“Something happened that made them turn and run towards Dave and Buster’s,” the employee said. “People took it upon themselves, merchants, stores, to close their gates knowing that something was happening.”

Employees said something more should happen, whether that means mall policy changes, security changes or a curfew.

Channel 9’s DaShawn Brown asked mall officials if there is a procedure for employees to follow during an emergency, such as a shooting.

Mall officials responded Monday with the exact statement from the day before, which didn’t address our question: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic incident that occurred Saturday evening outside the exterior entrance to Dave & Buster’s. We are working closely with Dave & Buster’s and the Concord Police Department to further understand the nature of the dispute that took place inside Dave & Buster’s space, which ultimately escalated outside of their entrance.”

Concord police said Aveanna’s cousin was murdered about three hours before she was killed.

They are searching for 16-year-old Omrionne Hudson, who they said shot and killed Derron Jordan near the intersection of Lincoln Street and Malvern Drive.

Police have not released any motives, but did say this incident is in no way related to the shooting at Concord Mills.

Statement of Concord Mayor William C. “Bill” Dusch:

The Concord City Council and I join many in our community thankful for this morning's arrest related to last weekend's shooting incident at Concord Mills.

“The senseless violence claimed the innocent life of 13-year-old Aveanna Propst, physically injured two other bystanders and caused immeasurable trauma and suffering to victims’ families.

“Many people who witnessed this incident, their families, and indeed the entire community feel sorrow and anger about what happened. We thank the Concord Police Department for their efforts, as well as the many partner agencies assisting with the immediate and ongoing response.

“We particularly thank the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team members, who took 18-year old suspect Dontae Milton-Black into custody this morning without incident.

“We also mourn for the suspect's family and what this incident means for the many people who hoped for so much more in the life of a young person they cared about.

Saturday was a hard day in our City with this incident following another unrelated shooting hours before, resulting in the death of Derron Jordan. We ask the community to continue providing information to police that will lead the the arrest of murder suspect 16-year-old Omarionne Tymyrre Hudson, so that justice will also prevail in this case.

“As a community, we must go forward with continued compassion for each other, and a willingness to work together to address the issues in our society that cause such unnecessary violence.”

Milton-Black will be held at the Cabarrus County jail with no bond. He is expected to be indicted in the coming weeks.

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