A 15-Year-Old Mass Shooter Killed 5 People in Raleigh

The suspect is in critical condition in a hospital.
A 15-year-old shot and killed five people on a walking trail in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday evening.
(Getty)

A 15-year-old boy shot and killed five people on a walking trail in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday evening. 

The teenager evaded police capture for hours before he was finally cornered and arrested. The alleged shooter was later identified in multiple local reports as 15-year-old Austin Thompson. Eye-witnesses told local media that the shooter was dressed in camouflage gear.

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The shooting began on Thursday at about 5 p.m. in a residential area along the Neuse River Greenway trail, in the northeastern part of the city, the police said.

At 5:13 p.m., officers from a number of law enforcement agencies responded to an active shooter call. Residents were told to stay indoors as the officers searched the area for the shooter.

Police searched door-to-door in the Hedingham neighborhood and along the Neuse River Trail for hours before containing the suspect in an area off Old Milburnie Road.

By 8 p.m., the suspect was cornered in a barn off Buffaloe Road, a law enforcement source told ABC11, and by 9:40 p.m. the Raleigh Police Department tweeted that the suspect was in custody.

The shooter was transferred to an area hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Among the five people who were killed by the shooter was 29-year-old Gabriel Torres, an off-duty police officer on his way to work, and 16-year-old James Thompson, who was reportedly the shooter’s brother. Three women were killed; 52-year-old Nicole Conners, 49-year-old Susan Karnatz, and Mary Marshall, 35.

Officers were seen searching a home on Friday morning near the site of the shooting.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Raleigh Police Department Chief Estella Patterson shared few details about the shooting while praising her officers response to the incident. 

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“We don't have answers as to why this tragedy occurred,” Patterson said. “What I can tell you is that the Raleigh Police Department and the Raleigh community is resilient and we stand strong and we will heal and we will be stronger as a result of what has occurred.” 

“Tonight, terror has reached our doorstep,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference at Raleigh City Hall on Thursday night. “The nightmare of every community has come to Raleigh. This is a senseless, horrific and infuriating act of violence that has been committed.”

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin echoed his sentiments and called for tighter gun control. “This is a sad and tragic day for the city of Raleigh. We must stop this mindless violence in America. We must address gun violence.”

Thursday’s mass shooting was the 25th mass killing this year, according to a Mass Killings database maintained by the Associated Press, USA TODAY, and Northeastern University. A mass killing is defined as when four or more people are killed excluding the perpetrator.

The age of the shooter is also important to this case. In recent years there has been a noticeable downward shift in the age of those perpetrating mass shootings; six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. since 2018 were perpetrated by people who were 21 or younger. Prior to 2000, the vast majority of mass shootings were perpetrated by men in their mid-20s, 30s and 40s.

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This year alone has seen two mass shootings perpetrated by 18-year-olds. In Buffalo, an 18-year allegedly shot and killed 10 people at Topps Supermarket in May, and weeks later,  in Uvalde, an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 students and 2 teachers in a massacre at Robb Elementary School.

There is historical precedent, however, for young mass shooters in the U.S. In 1996, 14-year-old Barry Dale Loukaitis shot and killed his algebra teacher and two students at Frontier Middle School in Washington State. And in 2013, 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego shot his parents and three younger siblings in South Valley, New Mexico. In 2008, Nicholas Waggoner Browning killed his two parents and two siblings in Maryland just before his 16th birthday.

Patterson refused to answer any questions during the press conference relating to the identity or motive of the shooter, but Gov. Cooper said those questions will eventually be answered.

“Today we're sad. We're angry, and we want to know the answers to all the questions,” Cooper said. “Those questions will be answered, some today and more over time but I think we all know the core truth. No neighborhood, no parent, no child, no grandparent, no one should feel this fear in their communities. As policymakers, we cannot and we will not turn away from what has happened here. We must be resolved to make changes, and to succeed.”

This story has been updated.