CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A 3-year-old boy has died and a 4-year-old girl was injured in an overnight drive-by shooting in northwest Charlotte. The suspects, who police believe could be high school students, remain at large.
Shortly before midnight Tuesday, more than 150 shots were fired into the home on Richard Rozzelle Drive, according to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
Asiah Figueroa was shot during the violent drive-by shooting. His 4-year-old sister was also grazed by a bullet but is expected to survive.
“I don't know why this happen and I don’t know why this is going on, why the world can't get together and just love one another,” Figueroa's great-grandmother Susie Whitley said.
Figueroa was transported to Atrium Health's Carolinas Medical Center hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"He was only three, hadn't lived that long a life, and he was just taken away," Whitley said.
Security camera video from neighboring homes shows numerous shooters exit multiple vehicles and begin firing into the home. The shooting lasts for roughly 10 seconds.
"By that time we got on the floor, they shot more, then the shooting stopped and everyone was crying and yelling that my great-grandson had got shot,” Whitley said.
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In an afternoon news conference, CMPD said they had not yet located any of the vehicles or suspects, who they believe could be teenage students connected to three Charlotte high schools: Hopewell High School, North Mecklenburg High School, and Chambers (formerly Vance) High School. All three schools are located within miles of each other.
In a statement, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said it is working with community organizations on intervention programs.
"Recent acts of violence involving and directed toward students assigned to attend Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools indicate a significant problem in our community," the statement reads, in part. "These horrific acts are another terrible reminder of how disruptions in lives have caused pain for many families here, including for many CMS students. Violence resulting in death is a result of that pain."
"I want to speak directly to the suspects right now," CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said during Wednesday's briefing. "How can you wake up this morning knowing that your actions last night took the life of a 3-year-old?"
"Realize that you need to hold yourself accountable and come in, turn yourself in, and talk with us," the chief continued. "It just makes no sense that you can have such disregard for human life and not hold yourselves accountable for that."
Investigators believe Tuesday night's shooting was the latest in a string of related shootings.
Timeline of related crimes
Sunday, Sept. 5
16-year-old killed in 9700 block of Trinity Road. Two others hurt.
Monday, Sept. 6
14-year-old arrested for murder
Tuesday, Sept. 7 at midnight
Shots fired into a home near 5300 block of Kiev Drive
Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 1 a.m.
Shots fired into a home on Joe Morrison Lane
Later overnight Tuesday
More shots fired into homes near the 5300 block of Kiev Drive
Shots fired into a home on Billingsville School Court
Shots fired into on Mayer House Court
Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 11:45 p.m.
Asiah Figueroa, 3, killed inside home on Richard Rozzelle Dr
"Someone is not willing to tell us how to do better -- how to stop it," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said Wednesday. "Without someone being willing to be brave enough to say, 'This is not the city that I want to live in.'"
"This is a situation where we have a very young, innocent child who has been taken from the community due to the actions of some individuals who clearly have demonstrated [a] complete disregard for the welfare of their fellow human beings," Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Major Ryan Butler said early Wednesday after the shooting.
Investigators are looking into the possibility the shooting could be gang-related.
"What started out as teenage dispute and games has turned into a deadly game,” CMPD Major Ryan Butler said.
Officers are canvassing the neighborhood trying to get more information on what occurred -- and they are asking for the help of parents.
"We need you to talk to your children. You should know whether or not your children were at home the last few nights," CMPD Capt. Joel McNally said. "If your children were not at home the last few nights overnight, we need to know that."
McNally encouraged parents to:
- Look through their children's rooms
- Look through their children's phones
- Look through their children's social media accounts
- Ask them about fights at school
"We need you whether you think your kids were involved or not," McNally said.
Some of the 150 shots fired late Tuesday also damaged neighboring homes.
A neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, told WCNC Charlotte she thought the gunfire was initially coming from their TV.
"The very next second, I heard the whole house just exploded," the neighbor said. "The cops said I was lucky I didn't get hit by fragments."
In addition to CMPD, victim services, Charlotte Fire Department and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Homicide Prosecution Team responded to assist at the scene.
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