GASTON COUNTY, N.C. -- Every Christmas, the Dallas Christian Ministry boxes up clothes and toys, providing a little Christmas spirit to families in need around Gaston County.
“We have 186 families and 412 children this year,” said Assistant Executive Director Leah Hedgpath.
But to give the give the gifts, Hedgpath said she and other members of the ministry must first shop for them -- and that’s exactly what she was doing Sunday afternoon at the Walmart, located on North Myrtle School Road in Gastonia.
“This is my life. My great-grandmother started the ministry 31 years ago, so this is all I know,” Hedgpath said.
But around 3 p.m., her shopping trip was cut short, as police wearing bullet-proof vests, carrying rifles started moving through the store, asking shoppers to hurry to the exit.
“And that’s when you start hearing, 'Gun! Gun! Gun! He's got a gun,' and people are screaming,” she said.
Once outside and out of danger, Hedgpath started filming on her cell phone, capturing shoppers scared and confused.
Police later found and arrested 36-year-old Reginald Hall. Hall was charged with 2nd-degree trespassing. Police say he was previously banned from that Walmart. This arrest marks his fifth in just this year.
Police say no weapons were found.
Hedgpath said she chose not to leave and waited for police to reopen it to the public.
“I’m not going to leave four buggies worth of stuff for these kids that I just shopped three hours for," she said. "You know I’m not going to leave those in there, I’m going to go back and get them. I’m shopping for my community, not for myself."
Hedgpath said the ministry is always collecting food, toys and clothing for those in need. She says most often they need clothes, socks and underwear the most.
Dallas Christian Ministry is located at 305 East Trade Street in Dallas.