Local News

Durham school bus hit by stray bullet

Posted January 18, 2019 4:00 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2019 10:08 p.m. EST

— A Durham school bus driver was injured by flying glass Friday afternoon after a stray bullet shattered the window of that vehicle.

About 15 students and the driver were on board Bus 218 from Sheppard Middle School when the shots were fired. The bus was traveling in the 1800 block of Cheek Road.

None of the students was injured. The driver was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

"We care about making sure that they learn in school and come to school and leave school safely, and today is just one of those days when we are just utterly grateful," said Chip Sudderth with Durham Public Schools.

According to a Durham Public Schools spokesman, the bus was not the target of the shooting. Authorities were working Friday afternoon to determine where the bullet came from, but said no people had been shot nearby.

A witness told WRAL News that he saw the occupants of two cars shooting at each other along Cheek Road and one of those bullets struck the bus.

Several people said they are alarmed knowing that the shooting could have had a tragic outcome.

"You are shooting at school buses, kids," said a neighbor who asked only to be identified as Ray. "I have 26 grandkids, nine kids. For anybody to shoot at a school bus, that could have been one of mine."

The bus had been towed from the scene by about 5 p.m.

The gunfire comes just about 24 hours after Durham's chief of police pleaded for greater community involvement in stemming the tide of violence that saw the city start 2019 with six homicides in three weeks.

"Anybody could be next. Bullets don't have names on them. They just fly," Durham resident Xavier Williams said.

At the same event, Mayor Steve Schewel called on state lawmakers to enact stricter laws to regulate the sale of guns.

“We’re not going to solve this unless we attack root causes,” Schewel said.

Schewel said that there were 866 gun-related crimes in Durham in 2018, which was fewer than the number of those crimes in 2017, 2016 and 2015.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said he recognized the impact of mental illness, trauma and gun violence on individuals and in communities.

"These issues are not unique to Durham but this is a crisis that we are currently experiencing," he said.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39,773 people were fatally shot in 2017, a figure that has grown by more than 10,000 people since 1999. CDC data going back to 1979 shows that 2017 had the highest rates of gun deaths in nearly 40 years.

Within that report are data points that refute from common misperceptions of gun violence.

For instance, while homicide deaths by guns were the highest among black men in 2017 compared with other demographics, that number does not take into account that, overall, most firearm deaths are suicides – which by and large affect middle-aged and elderly white men.

Of the nearly 40,000 who died by firearms in 2017, 23,854 people, or 60%, committed suicide using a gun.