NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — City and county law enforcement leaders have released more details surrounding two back-to-back shootings.
Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams, New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, and District Attorney Ben David spoke together at a press conference Monday evening.
In the past 30 days, Wilmington Police have confiscated 91 guns. 59 of those are related to criminal cases. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has seized an additional 45 guns.
“I’ve been in this business nearly 29 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chief Williams said.
Chief Donny Williams announced arrests following two shootings at the end of February. The first involved a Wilmington police officer’s car getting shot while in the 900-block of Hanover Street on Feb. 25. The officer was in an undercover car and dressed in plain clothes.
After being hit, the officer immediately took off and called for back up. A house and another vehicle were also hit by gunfire. No one was hurt.
“After obtaining a search warrant, the search yielded two stolen firearms and marijuana,” Chief Williams said. “Detectives have now charged two 17-year-old males in connection with this case.”
One of those teens faces an attempted murder charge.
Chief Williams also announced arrests related to the shooting that happened on Feb. 26 at Ten Pin Alley Breaktime Billiards in Wilmington. A juvenile was hurt during the shooting, but has been released from the hospital.
Four people have been charged in that case. Olajuwon Moore, 20, is charged with carrying a concealed weapon and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Isiah Lewis, 18, is charged with discharging a firearm within city limits, carrying a concealed weapon, and discharging a firearm within an enclosure.
Two juvenile males were also involved and additional charges are pending.
District Attorney Ben David was a champion of the Raise The Age law, which makes 16 and 17-year-olds be treated as juveniles by default rather than adults. David says protecting violent offenders was not the intended purpose of the law.
“We were never talking about this,” David said, pointing to the collection of seized guns. “If you are going to be bringing guns into this community, if you’re going to be firing at officers, I’m going to try you as an adult.”
David says there are several ways guns are getting into the hands of juveniles and felons. One is straw purchasers, those who buy guns legally and then illegally give or sell them to someone else. Another is those who trade guns for drugs.
“Many of these drugs that we see and guns on the street are interrelated,” David said.
A third probability is legal gun owners not properly locking up their guns, causing them to be stolen.
“They’re leaving these guns in unlocked cars, they’re leaving these guns in open view in their homes,” David said. “And when those cars and homes are being broken into, they fall into the hands of children and felons.”
David also says young adults are exploiting the Raise The Age law, handing over their guns to minors during traffic stops so they will face lesser charges.
David believes the COVID-19 pandemic could be playing a part in the increased violence among the youth.
“We all know that kids need structure, when they don’t find it at home, they find it in each other, and that’s frequently a street gang,” David said. “School has always been a refuge for our children, but over this last year that obviously has been lacking for the same type of structure that they’re used to for that five days a week in a school house. And for that reason, we’re seeing things that we haven’t seen before, and we’re seeing crimes that we have seen before with much greater frequency.”
David and Chief Williams are calling on those in the community to lock up their guns, and discourage their children from getting involved in violence.