LUMBERTON — Burnis Wilkins is grateful for his law enforcement experience and training, and feels his educated eye stopped him from killing or seriously injuring a teenager Thursday afternoon.
In the aftermath of a hail of gunfire during which three teens were injured, Wilkins watched an armed young male run down his street and past him. Wilkins chased down and detained the teenager after he ran within feet of the law enforcement instructor and city councilman’s home in the Godwin Heights area of Lumberton.
The moment Wilkins confronted the teen holding a weapon could have easily taken a deadly turn.
“Had my eyes not been focused on the barrel, I would have shot, there is no doubt about it,” Wilkins said. “Luckily, I was focused on it.”
Wilkins chased the teenager and announced himself as a police officer, whereupon the teen spun around holding a handgun and a cellphone. Wilkins caught sight of the semi-automatic weapon and noticed that the slider on the top of the weapon was locked in the rear position. That meant that the gun had jammed or was out of ammunition.
“I think had it not been for my training and experience, I think other officers could have chosen a different route. Lucky for him, things worked out. It was an unloaded gun, but he had just unloaded it,” Wilkins said. “He turns around and faces a police officer, I think I startled him. He never looked back. I’m a big guy, I just happen to be a PT instructor and I can run for miles. I’m glad he didn’t try and make any kind of crazy moves.”
An instructor of law enforcement at Robeson Community College, Wilkins also believes a shooting simulator at the college helped him make a potentially life-saving decision.
“I train, I trained it. I’ve been through it on the simulator,” Wilkins said. “What he did, that’s exactly what he did was on that simulator.”
Lumberton police have all recently been through the simulator, which presents different scenarios to react to. Wilkins said the scenario he encountered was exactly that of Thursday afternoon, an individual turning around rapidly holding a cellphone in one hand and a gun in the other. In the virtual simulation, officers are presented with an individual who can be holding a firearm, but also could just have a cellphone or a drink in their hand.
The teenager detained by Wilkins has not been charged with a crime as of Friday afternoon, nor has his name been released. Wilkins and Lumberton police Capt. Terry Parker have said that more charges are forthcoming related to Thursday’s shootings.
The shootings took place about 4:24 p.m., Thursday.
Jasean Rakeem McArn, 21, of Hope Mills, and Jaquan Quadrick McLellan, 19, of the 5700 block of N.C. 211 in Lumberton, are each charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and conspiracy to commit murder. Each was jailed under a $1 million bond. Information on how McArn and McLellan were taken into custody has not been made available.
Jacob Hill, 18, of Kings Cross Road in Lumberton, Hannah Locklear, 16, of Dew Road in Fairmont, and Hannah Moore, 17, of Lindsey Court in Lumberton, were taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center Thursday. Hill and Moore, both of whom suffered critical injuries, were transferred to undisclosed hospitals. Locklear remains at Southeastern Regional.
All of the shooting victims were in stable condition on Friday afternoon.
Wilkins represents Precinct 3, where the shooting occurred, and was at his home when he heard gunshots. He has represented the precinct since 2013, and is up for re-election this year.
Although he has not officially announced, Wilkins’ name has been floated as a probable candidate for sheriff. Ken Sealey has not announced he would not seek re-election, but most political observers say he will step down and throw his support behind Randy Graham, an investigator at the Sheriff’s Office who has already announced.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly