Local News

BB gun-toting bicyclists terrorize church after-school program

Posted March 25, 2011 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2011 10:31 a.m. EDT

— Members of a Raleigh church said Friday that students in their after-school program have been shot at twice this week by teens on bicycles armed with pellet guns.

They are just as surprised by what they say is a slow response by Raleigh police to the situation.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, dozens of underprivileged students go to Avent Ferry United Methodist Church, at 2700 Avent Ferry Road, for a free meal and some help with their school work.

Both days this week, some teens rode their bicycles alongside the church van as it picked the children up for the program and began firing pellet guns at the vehicle, church member Wendell Gilliam said.

Susan Bell, the director of the program, called 911 at 4 p.m. Thursday to report the incidents, Gilliam said, because the children were too scared to leave the building.

"She was told that they would have a policeman call her. That did not happen," he said, noting Bell then called 911 a second time.

When the second call again led to no response, Gilliam said he drove to a police substation on Hutton Street to ask for help.

"They told me they couldn't help me. I had to call 911. An officer, actually two officers, would not come over," he said. "It irritates me very much that it takes so long to get a policeman to come when you have children being shot at. If that's not serious enough to get a response from police, what is?"

Gilliam said an officer arrived at the church at 6:45 p.m. Thursday to escort the children home. They usually are taken home at 6 p.m., he said.

Police dispute some of Gilliam's account of the incident, noting the first 911 call wasn't made until 4:53 p.m. In that call, Bell never told the dispatcher that the children were in danger, only that BBs has been fired at the church van.

In the 911 call released by police, the caller states that the van was shot at at Gorman Street and Conifer Drive and had left the intersection.

"They continued on. I told them to move out," the caller says.

Maj. J.C. Perry said he spoke to the substation supervisors and believes the officers made an attempt to follow up on the 911 calls from the church.

"They checked the computer to see if it was something ongoing at that moment," Perry said. "I can't imagine that we didn't do anything to provide immediate assistance."

Police said they were still looking into the matter.

Gilliam said some of the children who normally attend the program weren't there on Thursday. He said he hopes police will provide more assistance next week when the program resumes.

"I want a policeman to be around, and I want that bus to be escorted," he said. "(The children) are afraid."