CMPD: High school students tied to drive-by shooting that killed sleeping toddler

CHARLOTTE — Police said gunmen unloaded at least 150 rounds into a northwest Charlotte home, killing a sleeping 3-year-old boy. The toddler became the latest victim of a deadly string of shootings that authorities on Wednesday said are tied to “simple disputes” between students at local high schools.

At around 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, officers responded to multiple 911 calls about a shooting along Richard Rozzelle Drive, off Rozzelles Ferry Road near Mountain Island Lake. When police got to the scene, they found a 3-year-old boy who had been shot.

That child, identified by family members as Asiah Fiquero, was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.

The boy’s great-grandmother, Susie Whitley, said the boy was sleeping when he was shot.

“I don’t know why this happened — I don’t know what’s going on,” Whitley said. “I’m gonna miss my grandson, my great-grandson, so much. He was only three. He was just taken away. He was gonna have a birthday in December. But now that’s all gone.”

Relatives told Channel 9 that Asiah had a 5-year-old sister and that the two were very close. Police said the girl was grazed by a bullet during the shooting but will be OK.

“These people need to be caught and need to get them off the street because they keep shooting at people’s houses,” Whitley said.

Channel 9 spoke with police at the scene, and their frustration and disappointment was clear.

“As you can imagine, this is an extremely challenging time, not only for the friends and family involved, but for the neighbors and the officers who are currently working this case,” said CMPD Major Ryan Butler. “I can’t emphasize enough the gravity of this situation and I know that we have, unfortunately, spoken several times over the last week.”

According to detectives, two cars pulled up in front of the house and several shooters targeted the home, unloading more than 150 rounds.

“That’s when I told my grandson to get down on the floor, and I got on the floor. And by the time we got on the floor they shot a little more and then the shooting stopped,” Whitley said. “When I went upstairs, he (Asiah) was already passed away. I already knew that when I felt his neck, I already knew he was gone.”

Officers worked throughout the night canvassing the neighborhood and said other houses as well as vehicles were hit by gunfire. Eleven people were in the house when the shots rang out, police said.

“They just shot up the house and killed my great-grandson,” Whitley said. “They tried to kill everybody up here, I do believe.”

Channel 9 crews could see crime scene tape up around the house, which had several windows shattered. Dozens of bullet holes could be seen.

Channel 9 was also able to obtain home security video from across the street that appeared to capture two vehicles pull up in front of the house before several suspects get out and open fire.

“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 complete disregard for the welfare of their fellow human being,” Butler told Channel 9 at the scene. “This is so far short of what we as a community here in Charlotte are capable of.”

‘This should outrage everyone’

The chief of police, along with the mayor of Charlotte, spoke during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, where CMPD released stunning new details about the investigation.

According to CMPD Captain Joel McNelly, detectives believe the shooters could have ties to three local high schools — Hopewell High and North Mecklenburg High in Huntersville, as well as Julius L. Chambers High School in Charlotte.

“This should outrage everyone hearing this,” McNelly said.

(WATCH BELOW: CMPD provides an update after 3-year-old killed when more than 150 shots fired in drive by shooting)

McNelly said detectives think Tuesday night’s drive-by shooting is connected to another recent shooting that left a 16-year-old dead as well as several other violent crimes and shootings into homes.

He said he believes all of the shootings involve Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school students and have evolved from simple disputes into violent, deadly shootings.

“I’m here today because we’ve had a series of shooting incidents in our community that we believe are related to not just the death of Asiah Fiquero, but also another homicide this past weekend,” McNelly said.

Timeline of connected crimes:

  • Sunday, September 5 – Homicide on Trinity Road. A 16-year-old was killed and two other teenagers were shot.
  • Tuesday, September 7 – Just after midnight, a home in the 5300 block of Kiev Drive was shot into. No one was injured.
  • Tuesday, September 7 – About an hour later, another house was shot into in the 11300 block of Joe Morrison Lane. No one was injured.
  • Tuesday, September 7 – About 24 hours later, just before midnight, two houses in the 5300 block of Kiev Drive were shot into. No one was injured.
  • Tuesday, September 7 – At 11:45 p.m., More than 150 rounds were fired into a home on Richard Rozelle Drive, killing 3-year-old Asiah Fiquero.

“What I’m here to tell you today is that all of these cases have some relation to Hopewell High School,” McNelly said. “And there’s also, we believe, some connections to North Mecklenburg High School and Chambers, formerly Vance High School, as well. And we believe that these tragic events stemmed from some simple disputes — what started out as teenage dispute games has turned into a deadly game that’s now taken two lives.”

The captain went on to implore parents of students at those high schools to ask their kids what they may know.

“I’m going to speak directly to you, parents of kids at these high schools. What we need from you is we need you to be as outraged as we are about this,” McNelly said. “This is where your kids go to school. These are the people that your kids are around, and we need your help. We need you to talk to your children. You should know whether or not your children were at home the last few nights. If your children were not at home the last few nights, we need to know that. We also need you to talk to your children and find out what is going on at their school. Kids know things because they talk to each other. We need you, whether you think your kids were involved or not, we need you to talk to your kids about what’s going on. Ask them what they know about fights or disputes or other things going on at school. We need you to look through their stuff — you’re their parents, you can do that. Look through their rooms. Look through their phones. Look through their social media accounts and find out what you can find out. We need that to solve the murder of 3-year-old Asiah.”

Hopewell High School parent Keith Jett told Channel 9 he would like for there to be extra security measures inside schools.

“I would like them to go through scanners,” Jett said. “I mean, I know it sounds crazy but some schools are doing it, to a certain extent. They pick and choose different days, but I think they should do it every day.”

Mayor Vi Lyles began Wednesday’s news conference with an emotional message.

“I want you to know a 3-year-old lost his life because we can’t figure out how to live together,” she said, addressing the community. “Without your support and help, without someone being willing to be brave enough to say, ‘This is not the city that I want to live in, that I can make a difference by helping people live together, preventing the loss of life that we have had over the past several days.’”

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings then walked to the podium, and spoke about what Asiah’s family was dealing with.

“Asiah was three years old. He was shot last night while sleeping in his home,” the chief said. “His sister, who was also in the house, was grazed. And by the grace of God, she’s going to be OK, and she will survive her injuries. But for the rest of her life, she has to realize that she was in the house when her 3-year-old brother was senselessly murdered and taken away from this earth. Now today, her parents are making funeral arrangements. It’s absolutely senseless.”

Jennings then spoke directly to those responsible for Asiah’s death.

“I want to speak directly to the suspects right now — to the people that were involved in this shooting,” he said. “How can you wake up this morning, knowing that your actions last night took the life of a 3-year-old who will never get the opportunity to grow up and play and have fun? How can you not wake up today and realize that you need to hold yourself accountable and come and turn yourself in and talk with us? It just makes no sense that you can have such disregard for human life and not hold yourselves accountable for that.”

The police department released two home security videos that showed two cars pull up in front of the house before several people got out and opened fire on the home.

“You’ll be able to see a video that will be shocking, because as you look at it, you’ll know the results that it ended in the death of a 3-year-old,” Jennings said. “And that makes it very difficult to watch.”

(WATCH BELOW: Two home security videos of suspects in deadly northwest Charlotte drive-by shooting)

Increased police presence at local high schools

McNelly said it was unclear if the shootings were gang-related but that the possibility was being investigated. He also said an increased police presence was happening at all three high schools, and reiterated that detectives think all those involved are high school students.

“We continue to monitor and evaluate messages on social media including ones that involve school safety in our jurisdiction,” CMPD said in a statement. “Our school resource officers are our link between CMPD and our school community. We are aware of some messages on social media regarding recent shootings and homicides that have happened in our community. We continue to assess the situation, work with our SROs and will allocate our resources as necessary to facilitate a safe learning environment for students in our jurisdiction.”

Huntersville police also said it was aware of threats made on social media and had extra officers at both schools for the rest of the week.

“We’re going to commit and continue to do all we can as a police agency to bring these suspects to justice,” Jennings said. “And we hope that the community will help us do that.”

Anyone with information about the shooting should call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective. You can also leave information anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.

(WATCH BELOW: Drive-by shootings leave one child dead, two others injured in Statesville)

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