Raleigh mass shooting suspect faces 5 murder charges as his case moves to adult court

The teenage suspect in a mass shooting that killed five and injured two more in North Carolina's capital city is facing murder charges in adult court

Hannah Schoenbaum
Wednesday 04 October 2023 22:04 BST
Raleigh Shooting Suspect
Raleigh Shooting Suspect

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A teenager is facing murder charges in adult court nearly one year after police say the youth killed five people and injured two others in a shooting rampage that rocked his quiet neighborhood in North Carolina’s capital city.

A hearing Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court marked the final step in a transfer process to elevate Austin Thompson's case from juvenile court to superior court, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said. Freeman had announced shortly after the shooting that she would seek adult charges for Thompson, who was 15 years old last Oct. 13 when police said he fatally shot his brother, several neighbors and an off-duty Raleigh police officer.

“Once today's hearing was concluded, then that triggered the case having been transferred to superior court where Mr. Thompson can now be tried as an adult,” Freeman told The Associated Press.

Thompson has been charged with five counts of murder in the deaths of Officer Gabriel Torres, Mary Elizabeth Marshall, Nicole Connors, Susan Karnatz and the suspect's older brother, James Roger Thompson, according to court records. He also faces two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury, and one count of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer.

Although a grand jury had previously returned indictments against Thompson in August, those documents did not become public until Superior Court Judge Pat Nadolski finalized the case transfer at Wednesday's hearing, Freeman said.

The suspect's father, Alan Thompson, was also charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor offense of storing a firearm in a manner accessible to a minor. Before Wednesday, investigators had not indicated who owned the guns — a handgun and a shotgun — used in the shooting. An initial court date for Alan Thompson has not yet been set, Freeman said.

An attorney for the Thompson family did not immediately respond Wednesday to emails seeking comment.

Police allege the killing rampage began when the teen shot and stabbed his 16-year-old brother in their East Raleigh neighborhood. He then shot multiple neighbors, including an off-duty police officer who was on his way to work, according to the police report.

Dressed in camouflage with multiple weapons strapped to his belt, the high school student traveled nearly 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) on foot before law enforcement located him in a barnlike structure near the Neuse River Greenway, a popular walking path where he is alleged to have killed two of the victims.

Body camera video released by police shows gun shots ringing out from the structure, striking one officer in the knee, and police return fire. Officers later approached the building and found the suspect lying on the ground with a nonfatal gunshot wound. Authorities have not said whether he was shot by police or if his wound was self-inflicted.

A trial date for the teenager has not been set but will likely be “somewhere about a year to 18 months from now,” Freeman told The AP. If convicted, she said, the teenager could face life sentences for each of the five homicides. The transfer to superior court means the trial will be open to the public.

Wake County’s chief public defender, Deonte’ Thomas, who has been appointed to represent the suspect, did not respond Wednesday to emails seeking comment on the case.

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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