WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – On May 5, 2021 gunshots broke out just feet away from Little League baseball games at Long Leaf Park.
“I heard a loud crackling pops and I looked over my left shoulder, because I was watching the game here, and I thought it was firecrackers and then I could see flashes and then just a mob of people running in that direction,” that’s the scene Andrew Walden described one year ago.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has since increased their patrol at parks throughout the county with parks resource officers.
“We now have a uniformed park unit, so there is an increased uniform presence of deputies at all parks,” Sheriff Ed McMahon said. “It is critical and very important to us that families feel safe and parents feel safe to bring your children to the parks.”
McMahon says people in the community have increased their awareness when in public since this incident last year, and he says that’s a crucial part of solving crimes quickly to get criminals in custody.
“People say hey we see something that looks a little suspicious or this is going on in this park and we got the deputies that are right there so again it takes all of us it takes the entire team it takes law enforcement, it takes our citizens paying attention. That’s how we solve a lot of crimes, because people grab their phone and call 911 and say ‘hey something’s going on, it doesn’t look right’ and we want that exchange of information,” McMahon said. “We’re always telling people be aware of your surroundings, pay attention when you’re walking . . . don’t get so caught up in everything that you’re not looking around.”
Investigators believe the shooting was an exchange of gunfire between two people at a nearby basketball court. No arrests have been made in connection to the shooting last year, but the sheriff says he wants everyone to know that they’re still working to find the people responsible for the terror in a public park a year ago.
“Any gun violence is terrible and we’re doing everything we can,” McMahon said. “And what we’re trying to do is increase uniformed officers and patrol cars everywhere just to let people know we’re not gonna tolerate that here. It’s a problem, it’s a problem everywhere, but we’re doing all we can.”
Sheriff McMahon said he encourages families and others in the community to get out to the parks and know you are safe there with an increased presence of deputies.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep you safe, so come on back out if you haven’t already and enjoy our beautiful parks.”
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