Alamance County law enforcement officials and the district attorney came together Friday to underscore the importance and severity of the crimes being committed, mostly by juveniles, who have gone on a spate of shootings in recent weeks.
The shootings have often been into occupied homes or drive-by shootings at other cars. In some cases, the “overspray” (as Burlington assistant police chief Chris Gaddis termed it) has gone into occupied homes nearby.
District attorney Sean Boone noted that in many cases, the residential structures do not stop a bullet, but rather it can come through a door or wall.
So far, no one has been killed or wounded by the attacks, but officials expressed alarm at the growing number of incidents.
Sheriff Terry Johnson highlighted five “hot spots” in areas of east Burlington that are of particular concern.
Johnson highlighted his concern that many of the incidents involve gang members and named some of the gangs that have been determined to be active in the county.
District Attorney Sean Boone made clear that with regard to any charges involving weapons, he will seek to have the cases moved to superior court where the juveniles will face potentially stiffer punishment, including prison time.
Boone stressed that while he and law enforcement officials are not eager to have young people sent to prison, “that decision is usually made for us [by the severity of the criminal activity], not by us.”
Boone also acknowledged, “In Alamance County, most violent crimes occur in the lowest income, highest minority areas where honest, law-abiding people just want to earn a living and enjoy the fruits of their labor free of intimidation and fear.” But, he said, “We will not let a small band of violent offenders of any age terrorize these communities and then use their age to shield themselves from the consequences that come after.”
Burlington assistant police chief Chris Gaddis also expressed concerns about the possible role of gangs, although he said they have not found evidence to lead them to believe the shootings are somehow part of any initiation into a gang.
Gaddis also gave some practical advice for how people need to protect themselves and their property by ensuring that vehicles and guns are locked up; theft of some weapons was alluded to as a possible contributing factor to some of the shootings.
Because they are juveniles, their names were not released, but the sheriff’s office made clear that two juveniles have already been arrested and that there are 20 “persons of interest” who will be interviewed during the continuing investigation.
One juvenile as been charged with five counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling and two counts of injury to real property.
That same juvenile and an additional one have been charged for breaking and entering vehicles: a cumulative total of 10 counts of breaking and entering of a motor vehicle; 2 counts of financial card theft; 4 counts of obtaining property by false pretense; and one count of larceny of a firearm.
Meanwhile, Burlington’s police department has arrested a third juvenile, a 16-year-old, for one count each of: carrying a conceal weapon, discharging a firearm within the city limits; shooting into an occupied dwelling; and shooting into an occupied vehicle. See separate story on Burlington arrests of three adults in connection with the spate of shootings, and an armed robbery in Mebane Wednesday night that officials there believe to be related.