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18-year-old Winston-Salem prep student injured in shooting on Forsyth Tech

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — An 18-year-old student from Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy was injured after shooting himself in the hand on the campus of Forsyth Tech Community College Thursday, according to police.

The Winston-Salem Police Department posted on Twitter that a shooting was under investigation around 10 a.m. at the main campus near Miller Street.

During a news conference at 5 p.m., the Winston-Salem Police Department revealed that shots were fired from a restroom on the second floor of the Strickland Building on campus. Police found a man with a gunshot wound, and he was taken to the hospital.

Police then said he was a student from Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, and that he had shot himself. WSPD said investigators were working to learn if it was an accidental or intentional shooting.

According to Capt. Shelley Lovejoy, the student was identified as Shannon Howard James Pitts.

“The preliminary investigation has revealed that Mr. Pitts was in possession of a firearm on campus, which resulted in what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand,” Lovejoy said.

“Appropriate charges are being evaluated” for Pitts having the gun on campus, the captain said.

Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Tricia McManus said there were hundreds of high school students on Forsyth Tech’s campus on Thursday. Some were there for a “focus day,” which explored post-graduate opportunities, and hundreds more students were early college enrollees who are on campus every day.

Winston-Salem Forsyth County School Superintendent Tricia McManus said the incident will impact students well after they return from spring break.

“And when they return on (April 11), we will have teams at each of the schools,” McManus said. “We had 10 schools with students that came today.”

There will be counselors and social workers available, she said.

Pitts reportedly had non-life-threatening injuries.

Initial response: Campus lockdown, students in parking lots

Chopper 9 flew over the campus around noon Thursday and spotted crowds of people outside in parking lots while police cruisers were parked along the street.

Forsyth Tech had initially said around 11:30 a.m. that it was an active shooter situation on the campus, but Winston-Salem PD said there was no active shooter on the campus. Police did confirm that shots were fired on the campus.

Students were told to shelter in place, according to a message from the school. At about 1:20 p.m., Forsyth Tech said that law enforcement was releasing students, faculty, staff and visitors from the main campus.

Forsyth Tech said all classes would be canceled for the remainder of the week at all campuses.

‘I didn’t think it would happen here’

When the lockdown on the campus was lifted, few students remained -- but of those who were still leaving, you could see a mix of relief and frustration, an emotionally exhausting combination.

Channel 9′s Ken Lemon found Allison Wilson, a student at Forsyth Tech, leaving campus with a tight grip on her husband’s hand.

“I’m so grateful to get out of this today,” Wilson said.

Wilson told Channel 9 that the shooting was reported in the same building w here she had a lab. She said they didn’t know if it was an active shooter, just that shots were fired. They huddled in a dark classroom thinking of ways to defend themselves.

“What do we have on hand to protect ourselves if they come in?” Wilson said. “Fire extinguisher, beaker, chemicals, whatever we can do to protect ourselves -- which, how much can that protect you against a bullet?”

Wilson later learned one person was injured in the shooting, but she realized anyone could have been a victim.

“It was terrifying, nobody should have to live like this,” Wilson said.

Jynnifer Cheek’s daughter is a second-year student at Forsyth, and the trauma of the lockdown was still evident when Channel 9 spoke with her.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and inexcusable,” Cheek said.

Most students and parents learned about the shooting from a text message, but some students found out in the heat of the moment from their instructors.

“It’s a shooting, a shooting, a shooting,” said Brianna Attucks, a student. “Oh my god, I didn’t think it would happen here.”

One student told Channel 9 that she’ll always be looking over her shoulder now. She said that’s just wrong, and she doesn’t think anyone should have to do that.

(WATCH: Police share update on shooting reported at Winston-Salem community college’s campus)

Andrew McMillan, wsoctv.com

Andrew McMillan is the Digital Content Manager for WSOC-TV.

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