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Cousin of Stedman shooting victim says wrong man was arrested

Posted May 18, 2010
Updated May 19, 2010

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— The cousin of an 11-year-old girl seriously injured in a weekend shooting in Stedman said the wrong man was arrested for the crime.

Authorities said Johnny West, 35, went to 717 Mill Bay Drive in Stedman Friday evening to pick up his daughter, Caroline. As he was leaving the home, he sped through the neighborhood where other children were playing, authorities said.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said James Wilkes, who lives in a home along Mill Bay Drive, saw him driving recklessly and yelled at him to slow down.

West became angry and returned to the area with his two nephews and a gun with the intent of confronting the person who yelled at him, authorities said.

Caroline West Cousin of shooting victim speaks out

Authorities said West fired first, then Wilkes returned fire, striking West and his daughter.

Joshua Beale said the sheriff’s office does not have the facts straight. Beale said on Tuesday that he went to the house with his uncle to protect him if things got ugly. He said West took a rifle but never used it.

“Finally, my uncle said, 'That’s enough. No more arguing. There are kids out here crying. The children are upset. You leave me alone; I’ll leave you alone,’” Beale said.

Beale said Wilkes shot his rifle into their van, slightly hitting West but critically injuring Caroline.

Arrest warrants say the girl's spleen and a portion of her stomach were removed because of her injuries.

West received treatment for his wound at a nearby fire station. Caroline was transported by ambulance to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition Tuesday.

West, of 232 Euclid St., was charged Monday with felony child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and communicating threats.

Wilkes was not arrested.

“A man shot a child, and no matter the situation, 'fess up to the crime,” Beale said.

Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said West did fire from a rifle at Wilkes, who has two children of his own. “Fortunately, that bullet missed and lodged into the home," she said.

Wilkes was protecting his family and his property and was unaware there was a child inside the van, she said. 

Tanna said West placed his daughter in a very unsafe environment.

“Under the law, Mr. West is responsible for what happened to his daughter,” Tanna said.

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  • wralgolo2 May 19, 2010

    sinenomine: I agree, he knew his younger cousin was with her dad in the vehicle and should be charge with child abuse as well since he was privy to what was to take place.

  • sinenomine May 19, 2010

    West, having been yelled at by Wilkes, goes and gets some muscle and a gun and returns to pick a fight, bringing along his daughter. THAT's enough right there to convict him of felonious stupidity.

    IF the cops do have it wrong and Wilkes was the first to fire without first knowing that West was armed THEN he should be charged as well. It is not impossible that the story may develop that way, but for now, assuming their facts to be correct, the law enforcement people have made the right call. Even if Wilkes did start the actual shooting, though, the fundamental responsibility for bringing about the situation in which his daughter was gravely injured belongs squarely on the shoulders of West.

    The other idiot who stands out in this parody is Joshua Beale, West's nephew. He is as guilty as West of going back for no reason other than meanness to pick a fight with Wilkes over nothing and taking his eleven year old cousin along.

  • wralgolo2 May 19, 2010

    i wanna know why the cousins didnt get charged too
    degandmdg01

    I know you can be charged as an accessory to a crime, so I'm wondering if being a collaborator in this incident would be treated as such. Good question.

  • degandmdg01 May 19, 2010

    i wanna know why the cousins didnt get charged too

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 19, 2010

    It sounds like the police have it right and this guy needs to go away for a while...

    IMO, he made several BIG mistakes:

    1- Speeding through neighborhood with your 11 y.o. child, in a van, while other children were present

    2- Grabbing gun and returning to 'hood to confront concerned neighbor (who hurt his wittle feelings...and dared to question his reckless behavior)

    3- Bringing his 11 y.o. daughter with him for armed confrontation

    Buh-bye now.

  • MoroccoMole May 19, 2010

    The police have it right. It is unfortunate that Mr. West's daughter was injured, but he DID choose to go get two men and a rifle, then go back to pick a fight with someone that just yelled at him about his driving, so he is the one that was driving the escalation. If he was so set on getting back at Mr. Wilkes, he should have dropped his daughter off while he was getting his gun and backup. Even if I was stupid enough to want to escalate shouting into a physical confrontation, I wouldn't bring my children along. And no matter who fired first, Mr. Wilkes is still in the right. If three men, at least one armed, show up at your house after you yelled at one of them, you shouldn't have to get beaten or shot before you can protect yourself and your family. And Mr. West was certainly planning on at least a beating, you can be sure of that (why else bring backup).
    I hope his daughter recovers, and he needs to get at least some anger management. I would hate to be a child in his house

  • wralgolo2 May 19, 2010

    I wonder if Mr. Beal is the same that was convicted of Misd. B&E in Cumberland County last year.

  • didisaythat May 19, 2010

    Glad to see the folks on GOLO are not falling for the Cousins account of what happened.

  • wralgolo2 May 19, 2010

    Yes they both were responsible for this girl's injuries. However, if the home owner was at his door with a firearm, and Mr. West pointed a firearm at the home owner. The home owner was within his rights of self defense to fire at Mr. West.

    Again. It is unfortunate that Mr. West's daughter was in the car and was injured as a result of her father's poor judgement, but the home owner did not fire with the intent of "Ima shoot yo' daughter."

  • darlenerivera2000 May 19, 2010

    Poor Kid, i hope she gets better.
    About the father, that was really stupid of him, is his fault that his daughter got shot.

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