Police radio recordings bring new details to light about N.C. mass shooting

Among the shooter's victims were the shooter's brother and off-duty Raleigh Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres


By Lars Dolder and Tyler Dukes
The News & Observer

RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly two hours after a gunman killed five people and injured two others in and near the Hedingham community, Raleigh police cornered the teen suspect inside a barn about a mile northeast of the neighborhood.

Radio traffic obtained by The News & Observer reveals that teams of officers — including K-9 units and a bomb squad — converged on the 15-year-old suspect, whom sources have identified as Austin Thompson. Among the victims of the shooting are Thompson’s 16-year-old brother James and Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres, who was off-duty when he was killed.

Police have released few details about what transpired the afternoon of the shooting Thursday, including what types of weapons were used or how Thompson was captured. The Raleigh Police Department is expected to release a “five-day report” detailing the preliminary results of its investigation Thursday.

But law enforcement radio exchanges reveal that as police approached an out-building in an area off McConnell Oliver Drive shortly before 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 — “a blue barn with a tin roof on it... big door” — shots rang out.

“Gunshots in the woods,” one officer reported.

“Multiple or single?” another asked.

“A shit-ton. Multiple,” he replied.

Seconds later, another call reported an officer down.

Police “were advancing on the larger barn when he got shot,” an officer said.

Within minutes, dozens of officers were on site and pressing in on the suspect’s position, according to radio traffic from the scanner archive service Broadcastify. The next several minutes of audio are frenetic as officers stabilized their injured comrade and called for an ambulance.

“It’s a (gunshot wound) to the kneecap,” an officer said. “Tourniquet’s been applied. I think everything’s stable with it.”

Raleigh police later reported that Senior Officer Casey Joseph Clark, 33, sustained non-critical injuries in the incident. He was released from WakeMed Thursday evening.

But in the area around McConnell Oliver Drive, a standoff was under way.

“Somebody on that perimeter, go ahead start giving commands,” an officer told colleagues as they moved toward the teenager. “Challenge him.”

Just after 9 p.m., the situation had only intensified.

Officers still regarded the teen suspect as a serious threat. Over the radio, they said he was armed with a shotgun and trying to fire it — in what direction is unclear from the radio recordings.

“He’s still trying to pull the trigger and nothing’s happening,” police said.

Another potential danger: a backpack that officers worried may have contained an explosive. Police command advised officers to keep their cover. Instead of rushing Thompson, they deployed robots to separate him from potentially lethal weapons.

“Get the robot and pull him upright,” one officer said over the radio. “Pull him away from that backpack.”

When responders finally reached the teen just after 9:30 p.m., they reported a severe head injury. It remains unclear how he was injured.

“But he’s protecting his airway and breathing at this time. I’ve got minimal other wounds,” one of the responders said over the radio.

As of Saturday, WakeMed officials said Thompson was in critical condition. They have since declined to provide updates on his status.

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