Local News

Cousin of Stedman shooting victim says wrong man was arrested

Posted May 18, 2010 5:33 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2010 6:26 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.