Police have charged a 20-year-old man with attempted murder and felony assault after two men were shot while Sanford’s annual Christmas Parade was passing Monday night.
Deion Jamille Johns, 20, of 1508 Westover Drive in Sanford was arrested after a foot chase by officers who were on the street for the parade and saw a man shooting a handgun toward another man in the 100 block of South Gulf Street, investigators said in a statement.
Sean Dimitrius Matthews, 18, of Sanford was shot in his abdomen, arms and leg and was taken to UNC Hospitals. He was in critical condition, police said.
A shot hit a second victim, Jadakis Taylor, in an arm, police said. A spokeswoman for Lee County Schools said Taylor is a junior at Southern Lee High School.
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Johns was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, discharging a weapon inside the city limits, going armed to the terror of the people and having a weapon at a parade, the police statement said. Johns is the older brother of Trevon Johns, who was shot and killed outside his home in July.
Police did not disclose whether they had learned what prompted the attack, which happened about 7:50 p.m.
The gunshots sent fear through parade participants and onlookers. The procession had been underway about 50 minutes when the shooting happened, and participants, including the Lee County High School Marching Band, were passing nearby. Some parents reported throwing their children to the ground and lying on top of them to protect them. At least one member of the marching band reported seeing one of the victims being shot.
On Tuesday, rumors spread among students that another shooting would follow, this one at a high school. Sharon Spence, spokesman for the school system, said investigators found no credible threat, but additional officers were posted at Lee and Southern Lee high schools and at Bragg Street Academy. Some parents kept their children home Tuesday or withdrew them early because of the rumors.
“We certainly respect the right of parents to do what they think they need to for their child,” Spence said. “It’s a tough time.”
The parade is a big event for the city, drawing local businesses, churches, dance schools, civic groups and both high school bands. It’s always held on the first Monday evening in December, and people begin to gather along the route more than an hour before start time to get a good spot. Spectators are close enough to the parade that they can call out to their children, to their former dance teachers, to the mayor or to the sheriff as they pass.
When the shooting started, the floats and marchers stopped moving. Spectators began to flee, some getting in their cars and speeding up Wicker Street against the direction of the parade entries. As word spread that shots had been fired, parents snatched up their children and their folding chairs and ran toward their cars, some parked several blocks away.
The event ended without the climactic appearance of Santa riding through town atop “Old Betsy,” a 1925 American LaFrance firetruck once used by the city’s fire department.
Johns remained in the Lee County Jail on Tuesday afternoon under more than $1.6 million bond.