A local school community is shocked after a West Columbus high football player was shot over the weekend. West Columbus High School senior Anthony Bethea is hanging on for his life after being shot early Saturday morning. Anthony Bethea is number 73 and captain of the West Columbus High School football team. Those who know him best, know him as the spirit of the team. "He was the first one out on the practice field every single day and one of the last ones off the field every single day. He was the most vocal leader on the football team," said Pat Byrd, Bethea’s football coach. Now his coach, teammates, and entire school is praying Bethea's spirit will help him recover after being shot in the stomach. Around 4:00 a.m. Saturday, Fair Bluff police responded to a home to find Anthony fighting for his life after a house party turned into an argument between Bethea and 28-year-old Shondell Smith of St. Pauls. We're told Bethea's mother and other family members were at the party with Bethea at the time of the incident. Police say Smith was still on the scene when an officer arrived. The officer approached Smith's car, and that is when police say he pointed his gun at the officer. Smith was shot and killed by the responding officer. "This is a tremendous blow to the town of Fair Bluff. Any time a life is lost whether it is a motor vehicle wreck or a crime scene it's tragic," said Marty Lewis, Fair Bluff police chief. Mark Brown is the West Columbus High School principal. He is trying to stay as positive as possible about the tragic event. "It breaks our heart to know that someone is having to go through this. We understand that this will bring the good out of people, and hopefully from incidents like this the community, will realize that our kids need some positive and productive in it." As a defensive and offensive lineman for West Columbus, Coach Pat Byrd said Bethea was the glue that kept his team together. He said the team will now have to work harder, and show their support for their teammate, every time they hit the field. Bethea was transported to Pitt County Hospital in Greenville. It looks as though he will recover from his gun shot wound, but because of a few complications, doctors may have to remove part of his leg. The Vikings have a playoff game this Friday on the road against Jordan Matthews. As for the officer involved in the shooting, he is on administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation looks into the incident.
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