Woman fatally shot outside Chapel Hill school

Police say the shooter and victim had been involved in an ongoing domestic dispute.

kferral@newsobserver.comMay 26, 2012 

— A Carrboro man was charged with murder Friday in the fatal shooting of a woman in front of Mary Scroggs Elementary School minutes before school was to be dismissed for the long holiday weekend.

Ali Cherfaoui, 49, whose address is listed as N.C. 54, Carrboro, was arrested about three miles from the school in Southern Village as EMS workers were trying to save Chahnaz Kebaier, 40, who lived on Copperline Drive, a few blocks from the school.

The shooting happened just after 2 p.m., and Kebaier died at UNC Hospitals at 4:08. She had been shot multiple times in the head and body, according to a Chapel Hill Police Department news release.

Cherfaoui and Kebaier had been involved in an ongoing domestic dispute, the release stated.

When officers arrived on the scene, they found Kebaier shot multiple times near the “kiss-and-go lane,” where parents drop off children, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said.

Less than three miles away at U.S. 15-501 and Raleigh Road, police found the black Chevy Impala with a Florida license plate that witnesses said the shooter drove from the scene, Blue said.

Recordings released late Friday of police radio traffic said officers also found a gun at the scene.

Scroggs Elementary sits to the side of a wooded corner of Southern Village, a dense community of upscale condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes situated around a town square with a grocery store, church and movie theater.

Neighbors who live across the street from the school gathered to watch police investigate and said they were shocked that a shooting could happen in the area. Children often leave bikes and toys outside, and safety is rarely a concern, residents said.

Tommy Moore lives across the street in a condominium overlooking the school. He was sitting on his sofa waiting for his son to come home from school when he heard five or six loud gunshots, he said. He jumped up and ran out to his balcony and saw a black vehicle driving away. Then he looked out his back window and saw the woman lying on the concrete, he said.

“I saw three people from the school running around,” he said. “It took awhile to put two and two together.”

Emir Munoz’s wife, Maria, was walking into the school to pick their pre-K daughter when she heard the gunshots.

“The guy was talking with the lady; they weren’t yelling at each other,” he said. “Then (Maria) heard the first shot and saw her on the ground, then (Maria) ran away.”

Munoz said his wife, who speaks little English, was shaken.

As police were cordoning off the scene, school buses were arriving to pick up students. Parents typically line up their cars around the kiss-and-go lane to pick up their kids who come out to meet them.

When the shots were heard outside the school, it immediately went into lockdown, Principal Keri Litwak told parents in an email Friday afternoon.

Students were released to parents from a side door about an hour after the shooting. Parents hurriedly walked their children away from the school, many were unsure of what had happened outside.

In her email, Litwak thanked parents for their flexibility and understanding, and said grief resources will be available for students next week.

“Our central office staff has organized a support team to come to school on Monday morning and all day Tuesday to help any child or adult process this situation,” she said.

Chapel Hill Police had cordoned off the front area of the school with yellow caution tape immediately after the shooting Friday as TV helicopters circled overhead and more than a dozen police, EMS and fire vehicles descended on the area.

Parent Marlee Margulies had gone to pick up her two children at the school when she saw a firetruck, ambulance and at least a half-dozen police cars at the scene. At first, no one could tell parents whether police had caught the shooter.

“That’s all I wanted to know: Is this person loose? Is this person roaming around the neighborhood?” said Margulies, who lives in Southern Village.

Parents were concerned also because middle schoolers at nearby Culbreth Middle School often walk home to Southern Village through the woods on the other side of the community, south of downtown Chapel Hill.

“We were all distraught,” Margulies said.

Southern Village resident Danny Gotham, a musician who lives in the community’s downtown center, was walking his dog when he heard the shooting.

“I thought it was firecrackers because it’s Memorial Day (weekend),” he said. “It was just like ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!’ It sounded like it was over in the direction of the school.”

By the time he got there, police had cordoned the area off, he said.

Gotham said many Chapel Hill residents feel safe from violence until an incident like this happens.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re living in never-never land,” he said. But after the murder of UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson, the shooting of jogger Kristin Lodge Miller in 1993 and Friday’s incident, that sense of security vanishes, he said.

Staff writer Ron Gallagher contributed to this article.

Ferral: 919-932-8746

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