Local News

Bullet Strikes Occupied Durham School Bus

Posted December 3, 2002 2:23 a.m. EST

— As Durham police continued Tuesday to look for whoever shot into a school bus loaded with children Monday night, city officials planned to address the situation.

Interim Police Chief Steve Chalmers, City Manager Marcia Conner, Mayor William Bell and representatives from the Durham Public Schools will gather to discuss the shooting in a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Police Headquarters.

School Superintendent Ann Denlinger believes that violence like Monday's can't be tolerated.

"What is it going to take for this community to take action?" Denlinger said Monday night, "to change things like this? Is it going to take the death of a child?"

Three people suffered minor injuries after police said a bullet hit a school bus Monday afternoon in Durham.

Police said the bus, which was traveling on the 1000 block of Merrick Street around 4:15 p.m., was struck by a bullet that shattered the back window of the bus.

About 25 students from Pearsontown Elementary School were on board.

The bus driver, Shanita Morgan, and two students injured by glass fragments were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Morgan was able to safely stop the bus near the intersection of Merrick and Grant streets, according to police.

Investigators spent hours canvassing the area, which is near the Fayetteville Sreeet housing complex. They said they do not know where the shot was fired from, and there is no description of a suspect at this time.

Police went back to the scene Tuesday to do some more investigating, scouring a grassy area near the shooting to look for shell casings or other evidence.

Buses continued on their regular routes Tuesday. Parents said they're concerned but believe the school system does what it can to protect the children

"Once they're off campus, there's nothing anyone can do," Esselyn Hope said. "It just could've been us driving down the street, and the same thing could've happened"

Remembering back to a March shooting incident in the same neighborhood, Denlinger has questioned why there hasn't been more of a sense of outrage from the community about such violence.

In March, a bullet fired from the housing complex area entered nearby W. G. Pearson Elementary School. Students were in the building as part of an after-school program.

"Every community is judged by the way it treats its youngest citizens, its children," Denlinger said. "I would ask you, the citizens of Durham, is this how we want our community to be judged, by having children in school buses with bullets going through the windows?"

Denlinger said she will evaluate whether safety measures need to be added and bus routes adjusted.

According to police, one of the children who was injured was 9 years old. Broken glass apparently went near the eye of one of the children, but his glasses protected him.

Morgan said she was not bleeding from her injury and that doctors released her from the hospital after checking her for any broken bones.

Morgan said she remembers hearing the back window blow out, children screaming and the bullet striking the back of her head. She said she looked down and saw the bullet under her foot, then called her supervisor and 911.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division at 560-4440 or CrimeStoppers at 683-1200.