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‘Clearly a senseless act’: Teens shot at high school holiday basketball tournament at Catawba College in Salisbury

Catawba College issued a shelter-in-place for those on campus.
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 9:19 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 12:56 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - People scrambled for safety after a shooting at a crowded high school basketball tournament Wednesday night at Catawba College in Salisbury.

Police said two teenagers- a 13-year-old and 14-year-old - were shot at the Sam Moir Christmas Tournament, a basketball event that featured schools from Rowan County.

The shooting happened during halftime of West Rowan and North Rowan.

Officials said it started around 8:10 p.m. with a fight near the concession stand in the lobby of Goodman Gymnasium before shots were fired.

Police said at least one person opened fire.

Salisbury Police provide updates on Wednesday night’s shooting on the campus of Catawba College that left two teens injured.

Police said the 13-year-old male was flown to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the leg. He is in stable but good condition, according to police.

The 14-year-old was shot in the forearm and was treated and released from Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Police said both teens were not involved in the fight and are expected to recover.

“It is clearly a senseless act to be firing, particularly in the atmosphere those shots were fired in at some young people,” Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said. “These are underage kids attending a basketball game for their high school and it was completely unnecessary. We are going to do our best to determine who the shooter is and hold them accountable.”

Police discuss shooting at high school basketball tournament in Salisbury
Shooting at Catawba College
Shooting at Catawba College(Contributed photo)

Zach Tucker, a radio announcer for WSAT in Salisbury, said he and his broadcast partner Ken Anderson were calling the games.

Tucker said the crowd was a little rowdy with a scuffle the game before, but nothing too serious.

“There was a fight at the end of that game between the players, and the coaches were trying to split the players up,” Tucker said.

Officials said there were more than 400 people attending the basketball game.

The next game on the card was North Rowan and West Rowan.

Tucker says the first half was uneventful, but when halftime rolled around, the melee began.

“During that break is when we heard the shots, and we had to take cover underneath the media table,” Tucker said.

Salisbury police said someone pulled out a gun and fired it into the crowd.

Bullets shattered doorway glass, and chaos ensued.

“Everybody ran into the gym and stampeded each other,” Tucker said.

Fearing the gunman would make his way into the crowded gym, many people, according to witnesses, made a break for the exits.

Some shielded loved ones as they huddled behind tables and benches.

Tucker said until the shooting was over and the scene clear, they did everything they could to stay safe.

“We did the best that we could to just hide and just ride things out,” Tucker said.

Police said they have not identified a shooter or made any arrests.

“Basically, everyone in the gym ran to take cover and stampeded each other,” said Shamar Smith, who attended the tournament. “We were told to stay there until it was handled. I know someone was shot. The police handled it and we are told to sit in the gym and wait.”

Catawba College issued a shelter-in-place for those on campus. That shelter-in-place has been lifted.

“It’s frightening to be in a closed place like that with shots fired. It’s a Christmas tournament,” Smith said. “I’ve been coming my whole life and I have never had a problem like this. It was frightening and shocking at the same time.”

Rowan-Salisbury Schools announced that the remainder of the basketball tournament was canceled.

The SBI is also investigating the shooting.

“I was at home when I heard gunshots, people running and yelling out on the street,” said Joe Posten, who lives nearby. “I got a message to shelter in place and that’s what I did.”

The school district released a statement:

“This evening, during the Sam Moir Basketball Tournament held at Catawba College, gunshots were fired and two people were injured. This matter is currently under investigation by law enforcement agencies and the remainder of the Sam Moir Tournament has been canceled.

“We take the safety of our children very seriously, and we will continue working with law enforcement to do what is necessary to keep our students and staff safe. Thank you for your patience as there are still many unanswered questions regarding this matter until law enforcement completes their investigation.”

Police said they are working with school district to keep students safe when school resumes on Monday, which could include metal wands or other safety enhancements.

”We are working hard to thoroughly investigate this incident,” Stokes said.

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said “enough is enough” and vowed a unified approach to preventing violent crime.

Rowan County Commission Chairman Greg Edds said he’s grateful to Catawba leadership, Rowan Sheriff, Salisbury PD for their response.

Edds says his phone has “rung off the hook” from people who are bothered and scared about what happened.

“Parents, be parents and lead your children. Fathers, be fathers and lead your children,” Edds said.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board Chairman Dean Hunter said parents should not have to worry about the safety of their children at school or school events. He said there will be a called meeting of BOE soon to discuss policies.

”There should be zero tolerance for activities like this,” Hunter said.

Anyone with video of the incident is asked to call Salisbury police.

Catawba College sent a notification to students and staff about Wednesday’s shooting:

Dear Campus Community,

“Last night you received emergency notifications and a follow-up email regarding an incident that occurred on our campus in the Goodman Gym during the Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Christmas basketball tournament, featuring high school teams from Rowan County. I want to provide you an update and let you know steps we are taking to ensure the safety of our campus in the future.

As you may have learned from news reports, a shooter injured two teenagers, one who was treated and released from the hospital, and another who remains hospitalized in good condition. We are grateful to Rowan County Sheriff officers who were working the tournament and responded immediately to the shooting. We are also grateful to the Salisbury Police Department (SPD) for their swift response. An investigation of the incident, under the leadership of the SPD, is ongoing.

Since it is Winter Break, our campus is sparsely populated at this time. Catawba’s Office of Public Safety has contacted all students currently in residence on campus, and all remain safe. A number of Catawba employees worked the tournament, along with Chartwells employees who were serving concessions. Some Catawba employees and alumni also attended the event, some with their families. I’m glad to report that all of our Catawba family members were kept from physical harm during the shooting.

I am angry and saddened that such an event occurred on our campus. What should have been an enjoyable event for members of our city and county was marred by senseless violence. It is distressing for members of our campus community and our Rowan/Salisbury community to endure such trauma. We will continue to check in on members of our community to ensure their well-being.

Our Office of Public Safety is working with local law enforcement officials to review this incident and assess safety protocols and procedures. We will implement any necessary measures so that our campus is a safe environment for our students, faculty, and staff, and for guests at Catawba College. We will continue to work with our colleagues at Rowan-Salisbury Schools as well as other organizations regarding safety at events held on our campus.

Let’s enjoy the remainder of our break and appreciate the time we have with those we love. I look forward to seeing you all as we return to campus in the days to come.”

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