Featured photo: People stand in the Armory lot as they await the evacuation of students from Forsyth Tech Community College on Thursday afternoon. (photo by James Douglas)
James Douglas contributed reporting for this story.
Editor’s note: This story is ongoing and will be updated as needed.
On Thursday morning, around 10:15 a.m., students, faculty and parents, began receiving texts that there was an active shooter on Forsyth Technical Community College’s campus. The text messages, which TCB has confirmed through multiple sources, stated that there was a “report of shots fired at the Strickland Center. Shelter in place.”
The Strickland Center is located at 2100 Silas Creek Parkway and serves as a bookshop on the northern part of campus.
According to a public record release by the Winston-Salem Police Department, 18-year-old Shannon Howard James Pitts brought a firearm onto campus which “resulted in what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his hand.”
Pitts was charged with two counts of possession of a weapon on educational property and one count of carrying a concealed gun.
Pitts was treated and released from the hospital and received a $25,000 bond for his offenses.
According to reporting by WSOC-TV, Pitts is a student from Winston-Salem Prepatory Academy. The police department is still investigating whether the shooting was intentional or accidental.
The alert text message system stated that police were looking for two suspects wearing gray and black hoodies. As of noon, the Winston-Salem Police Department tweeted that there was no active shooter on campus and no other threats to other schools in the area.
No casualties have been reported in today’s shooting in Winston-Salem.
Forsyth Tech closed campus and canceled classes for the rest of the week at all locations. According to an email forwarded to TCB, Forsyth Tech has also canceled all events on campus, including the Middle College’s prom, which was set to take place this Saturday. A new date for prom will be set next week, the email states.
The two hours during the active shooter situation felt excruciatingly long for those who were on campus.
According to Lauren Miller, a student who was near the shooting, the shots made it sound “like a toilet seat being slammed.”
There were also multiple reports of students and teachers sheltering in place according to the police scanner. Many were afraid to answer doors as police moved quickly to evacuate students into buses to take them home.
According to one of the text alerts, the school received “a threat that was thoroughly investigated and deemed not credible,” on Wednesday afternoon. Neither the school nor the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department have confirmed whether the threats are related to today’s shooting.
The shooting on Forsyth Tech’s campus comes just three days after the mass shooting that took place at the Covenant School in Tennessee earlier this week. That event took the lives of six people, including three nine-year-olds.
Shooting takes place one day after pistol permit is repealed in NC
NC state law states that “it shall be a Class I felony for any person knowingly to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any gun, rifle, pistol, or other firearm of any kind on educational property or to a curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a school. Unless the conduct is covered under some other provision of law providing greater punishment, any person who willfully discharges a firearm of any kind on educational property is guilty of a Class F felony. However, this subsection does not apply to a BB gun, stun gun, air rifle, or air pistol.”
Still, data shows that shootings happen almost anywhere in the United States, no matter the consequences. And laws that make it easier to acquire guns are being passed in multiple states, including in North Carolina where Republicans overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto of SB41 on Wednesday to allow NC residents to buy a handgun without a permit.
Rep. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County was a sponsor of the bill. All local Republican representatives voted in favor of the veto while Democrats voted against. That includes Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth, whose daughter works as a guidance counselor on campus, according to reporting by WRAL. Rep. Amber Baker’s (D) lives half a mile away from capus.
According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, there have been 90 shootings on grade school campuses this year in the United States. In 2021, 15-year-old William Miller Jr. was shot and killed at Mt. Tabor High School in Winston-Salem. The shooter, Maurice Evans Jr., was charged as an adult for one count of murder according to reporting by WFMY News 2.
According to the CDC, gun violence is now the leading cause of adolescent deaths in America. A study published in May 2022 showed that prior to 2020, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for adolescents aged 1-19 in the US. But “from 2019 to 2020, the relative increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths of all types (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) among children and adolescents was 29.5 percent — more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population.”
According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, 74 people have been killed or injured by guns at American schools this year. But again, the database does not track shootings that take place on college or university campuses like Forsyth Tech. Also, many databases do not track shootings if they do not meet the definition of a mass shooting, which results in the death of at least three individuals.
However, Everytown for Gun Safety documented 308 instances of gunfire on college campuses, occurring in 42 states and Washington, D.C., from 2013-2022. These incidents include individual attacks, unintentional gunfire, legal interventions, self-harm, and other instances. Excluding mass shootings, gunfire on college campuses has killed 94 people in total and injured another 215 since 2013, according to Everytown’s data. There have been nine mass shootings on college campuses since 1966, according to The Violence Project database.
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