UPDATE (11:01 a.m.)
The suspect in Monday night’s Sanford Christmas Parade shooting is the older brother of a teenager who was killed in a July shooting. One of his victims on Monday was connected by Sanford Police to the suspect in that July shooting.
Sean Dimitrius Matthews —who was shot along the parade route outside of the Rite Stop grocery store Monday and is reportedly in critical condition at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill — was charged back in July along with two other teenagers with robbing a Spring Lake man at Horton Park. Matthews and the other suspects were identified in a report by the Sanford Herald (subscription required) as “companions” of Urbano Garcia-Sanchez, who was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of 18-year-old Trevon Johns just hours later.
Deion Jamille Johns, 20, the alleged shooter at Monday’s parade, is the older brother of Trevon. He said in a subsequent Herald report that the “the void of his brother’s absence felt like a permanent scar that may never heal.”
Matthews, of Broadway, had been jailed after that incident on a $100,000 bond. It’s unclear when he was released and whether those charges were still pending as of Tuesday morning.
UPDATE: 7:30 a.m.:
Two teenage boys were injured and a 20-year-old man was arrested Monday night in a shooting during the annual Sanford Christmas Parade. The incident, which happened along the parade route, cut the annual event short about one hour into it.
According to the Sanford Police Department, Deion Jamille Johns, 20, of Sanford, was charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon, plus three misdemeanor charges of discharging a firearm within city limits and possession of a weapon at a parade. He was placed in Lee County Jail under a $360,000 secured bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for today.
Injured in the shooting were Sean Matthews, 18, and Jadakis Tysor, 16, both of Sanford. Matthews was found suffering from several gunshot wounds to his lower abdomen, arms and legs. He was flown from Central Carolina Hospital to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was listed in critical condition, according to Sanford Police. Tysor, a student at Southern Lee High School, was shot in the arm and taken to Central Carolina Hospital, where he was treated and released.
The shooting happened around 8 p.m., one hour after the Sanford Christmas Parade started along Wicker Street. Police officers, many of whom were working the parade, were quick on the scene shortly after the shots were fired near the Rite Stop grocery store along Wicker Street near Gulf Street. Several parade goers witnessed the shooting or heard the shots and began to flee the scene, causing moments of “chaos,” according to some. Cars began driving into the parade route along Carthage Street, and the parade ended abruptly.
A woman who asked not to be named said she and her children were standing near the shooting. She said one of the victims was watching the parade next to her before walking into the Rite Stop. As he left the store, she heard “seven to eight shots fired from behind him.”
“I ran and jumped on top of my kids as the shots rang out,” she said. “As soon as they stopped, the police were already there, and we got out of there.”
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann sent out a message on social media a few hours after the shooting thanking Sanford Police and calling for prayers for the victims.
The Rant will provide updates as they come in today.
Update (11:20 pm): A message from Sanford Mayor Chet Mann – “Tonight our award winning Christmas parade was ended abruptly by people with malice in their hearts. We are upset, angry and disappointed by it all. At the same time we are grateful that no other people were injured and our children especially are safe. Thankful to our Sanford Police Department who took charge of the scene and quickly apprehended the suspect. They did a great job in a difficult situation. We have great citizens and a lot of love for each other in Sanford NC. This is not what we are about. Prayers for our people tonight.”
Update (10:21 pm): A witness who was standing near the Rite Stop grocery store when the shooting happened shared her experience with The Rant: “I was parked at the grocery store on Gulf Street beside Wilkins Auto. The young man who was shot stood beside me during the parade. He went into the store and took about 10 minutes, when suddenly seven to eight shots were fired from behind him. I didn’t see the shooter or any other victim — just the young man. He goes to Southern Lee. I ran and jumped on top of my kids as the shots rang out. As soon as they stopped, the police were already there, and we got out of there.”
Update (10:18 pm): From Kelly Miller with Central Carolina Jaycees, organizers of the annual parade (via Facebook): “I love the Sanford Christmas Parade. I love the work the Central Carolina Jaycees put into it. I love the thought and care the City of Sanford and the Sanford Police Department put into supporting it. I love the smiling faces of our community who come out — even in the rain — to wave and holler as their friends and family pass through. I love my children’s excitement when they find a way to be in it each year. I love the buzz of adrenaline when it’s over. I love seeing photos of happy people enjoying the spirit of the season. We didn’t get our ending this time, but I still love the parade. And I love our city.”
Update (10:01 pm): WRAL’s 10 p.m. report has witnesses saying shots occurred in front of Rite Stop on Wicker Street. Shots fired as motorcyclists in parade passed by, muting the sound for many nearby.
Update (9:55 pm): One of the shooting victims is a Southern Lee High School student, Jadakis Tysor, according to numerous friends of his on social media.
Update (9:38 pm): Worth noting to those not from Sanford, the city’s annual Christmas Parade is one of the state’s longest (participant-wise) and longest-running holiday parades. Thousands watch it each year, and hundreds participate (many, many of them children).
Update (9:33 pm): WWGP’s Margaret Murchison reporting two separate shooting incidents, calls shootings “gang related.”
Update (9:16 pm): According to The Sanford Herald, two people injured in shooting. One victim is in serious condition, while the other suffered minor injuries.
Update (8:50 pm): From Twitter @Zberly: Shooting “not more than 200 feet from where I was standing. 5-8 gunshots. Fatalities unknown. Pure chaos.”
Update (8:38 pm): According to source, two suspects in shooting. One currently in hospital, the other “on the run.”
Update (8:33 pm):From Lisa Wishart on Facebook: “Up on third floor in office and saw police cars going around floats in the parade to help.”