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The Daily Tar Heel

Offcials Searching for Suspects in CHHS Violence

While police continue to search for suspects in two acts of violence at a local high school football game, school officials have opened their doors to help students cope with the disaster.

Panic swept through a crowd at the Chapel Hill High School homecoming football game Friday night when gunshots were reported at 9:30 p.m.

One 12-year-old girl who was sitting in the home bleachers received an abrasive-type wound from an unidentified projectile around that time, almost 30 minutes after halftime, when a separate beating sent one 42-year-old man to the hospital.

Jane Cousins, Chapel Hill Police Department spokeswoman, said police do not know if the incidents are related.

"We have numerous leads we're working on," she said.

But as of Sunday, no suspects were charged in the incidents.

Cousins said both victims were treated and released from UNC Hospitals that same night.

Chapel Hill High School Principal Mary Ann Hardebeck said school officials promptly responded to the situation and were on hand, starting Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., to help and provide information for students or parents.

"We were open as a school to provide counseling for students who were upset and wanted information about the incident," she said.

Hardebeck also said the school would remain open during regular hours over the two-day Fall Break period, extending opportunities to residents for information and support.

"(The staff) planned for how to talk to students and how to reassure them that they are safe in our school," she said. "We will be providing the teachers with a packet of information and give students an opportunity to ask questions."

Hardebeck, who was present at the game, said that after the frenzy erupted, the event was halted and the stadium evacuated within 15 minutes.

"I did not hear gunshots, but I became aware when students ran by me and they told me they heard gunshots," she said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Neil Pedersen said there was still a question of whether a gun was shot or not, but said that response to the shooting situation was forthcoming.

"We are going to review the handling of larger crowds," he said. "We've had larger crowds because the team has been successful this year. We're considering walk-through metal detectors."

Pedersen said officials had trouble detecting the beating because of the large crowds near the concession stand. More than 3,000 people were at the game, and the stadium allows for 2,000 seated, he said.

"My understanding is there were just so many people mingling around that area that it was hard to see a fight going on immediately," he said.

As for the shooting, Cousins said police were not sure where it occurred.

"We don't know if it was inside or outside the fence," she said.

Pedersen said he did not think the incidents were related to the rivalry of the football game itself.

School board member Nick Didow was present at the football game when the panic spread through the stadium.

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"No one knew exactly what was going on," he said. "Everyone there was frightened."

Didow said CHHS implemented its own safe-school plan for handling the incident.

"People responded in an wonderfully calm and orderly manner," he said. "The main building was left open and teachers were there. The building was made available as a safe place for students who needed to be picked up or who needed to use the telephone to call for a ride."

These plans were put together by the teachers, students and staff, but Didow said the school can not be prepared for every situation. "The fear was real, regardless of what was behind it," he said. "We have a number of kids who are extremely troubled by this. We will deal with it as best as we can."

Hardebeck said a police presence was and would continue to be on campus.

"We are going to review our procedures and strengthen our security procedures and working closely with the Chapel Hill Police Department."

The City Editor can be reached


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