SALISBURY, N.C. — Two juveniles were hurt after a shooting on the Catawba College campus Wednesday night, Salisbury Police confirm. The college said the shooting happened in Goodman Gymnasium lobby during a high school basketball tournament.
The Salisbury Police Department confirmed two juveniles were shot during a game between North Rowan and West Rowan high schools.
Speaking during a press conference Thursday, Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said around 8:18 p.m. during the game's halftime, a fight erupted in the lobby of the gymnasium. During the fight, one or more suspects fired multiple shots toward the fight. The two people who were struck were not a part of the fight, according to police.
Salisbury Police said there were over 400 people in attendance at the game and roughly 100 people in the lobby at the time of the shooting.
One of the victims is a 14-year-old boy who was shot in his right forearm. He was taken to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and was treated and released Wednesday night. The other victim, a 13-year-old boy, was struck in the right leg and airlifted to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. He is listed as stable but in good condition and is still being treated for injuries.
Police said injuries are considered to be non-life-threatening for both victims.
"Clearly, a senseless act to be firing particularly in the atmosphere that those shots were fired in, at some young people," Stokes said Wednesday night. "These are underage kids attending a basketball game for their high school, and completely unnecessary. We're going to do our best to determine who the shooter is and hold them accountable."
One player who was there for the tournament said he started to run away, then ultimately ran back to help his mother who has an injured foot. He said they went to a hallway in the building in an effort to stay safe.
"You've got little kids there -- it's just selfish," the player told WCNC Charlotte.
Salisbury Police said Catawba College's security was present during the game and supplemented by off-duty Rowan County sheriff's deputies. Deputies began to break up the fight once it broke out, and shots were fired from behind the deputies.
Once the call went out that shots had been fired, the first Salisbury Police officer arrived at the scene at 8:19 p.m. Catawba College issued a shelter-in-place advisory around 8:30 p.m. following the shooting, lifting it shortly before 10:45 p.m.
In response to the shooting, Salisbury and Rowan County officials have called for change to prevent it from happening again. Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said at Thursday's news conference that city leaders, county leaders, school leaders and law enforcement would all work together on a unified plan of action.
"Enough is enough," Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said. "As we enter a new year we must have a new resolve of unity in dealing with public safety for our citizens."
Catawba College said further games this week for the basketball tournament will not be played on the college's campus. Rowan-Salisbury Schools released a statement following the shooting, saying the rest of the tournament has been canceled:
"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."
Rowan-Salisbury School Board Chairman Dean Hunter spoke at Thursday's news conference as well, saying he was thankful for the presence of law enforcement and that injuries are considered to be non-life-threatening. He stressed, though, that school and local leaders need to make sure policies in place are keeping kids safe.
"Parents shouldn't have to worry when they send their kids to school or school events," Hunter said.
Hunter added it will be a community effort, though.
“We need more than just the administration and school board and law enforcement, we need families and parents involved on a higher level then they’ve ever been," Hunter said
Salisbury Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact the Salisbury Police Department or Salisbury-Rowan Crimestoppers at 866-639-5245. Police are asking anyone with video of the incident to provide it to the police department, as detectives believe it will help identify the shooter or shooters.
"This type of event can certainly be a wake-up call for communities on addressing violent crime," Stokes said Thursday. "I as the chief along with every member of the Salisbury Police Department are committed to ensuring the safety of all our residents and visitors to our community, particularly our school children."
ALSO ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: EPA proposes settlement agreement with New Indy over hydrogen sulfide emissions concerns
ALSO ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: Man suspected of armed robbery fires at officers, Gastonia police say