Raleigh shooting: Audio reveals how police caught suspect

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language and images.

Nearly two hours after a gunman killed five people and wounded two others in and near the Hedingham community, Raleigh police cornered a teenage suspect in a barn about a mile northeast of the neighborhood.

Radio traffic obtained by The News & Observer reveals that teams of officers — including K-9 units and a bomb squad — were on the 15-year-old suspect, who sources identified as Austin Thompson. The shooting victims included Thompson’s 16-year-old brother, James, and Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres, who was off-duty when he was killed.

Police have released few details about what happened the afternoon after Thursday’s shooting, including what types of weapons were used or how Thompson was captured. The Raleigh Police Department is expected to release a “five-day report” Thursday outlining the preliminary results of the investigation.

But A law enforcement radio exchange reveals that as police approached an outbuilding in the McConnell Oliver Drive area just before 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 — “a blue barn with a tin roof on it … a big door” — shots rang out.

“Shots fired in the woods,” one officer reported.

“Multiple or single?” asked another.

“Shit. More,” he replied.

Seconds later, a second call reported that the officer had fallen.

Police were “advancing toward the larger barn when he was shot,” the officer said.

Within minutes, dozens of officers were on the scene pressuring the suspect’s position, according to radio traffic from the scanner service archive Broadcastify. The next few minutes of audio are frenetic as the officers stabilize their injured comrade and call 911.

“It’s (a gunshot wound) to the knee,” the officer said. “The tourniquet has been applied. I think everything is stable with him.”

Raleigh police later reported it Senior Constable Casey Joseph Clark, 33, suffered non-critical injuries in the incident. He was released from WakeMed Thursday night.

But in the area around McConnell Oliver Drive, the conflict was ongoing.

“Someone on that perimeter, start giving commands,” the officer told his colleagues as they moved toward the teenager. “Challenge him.”

A little after 9 p.m., the situation was just intensified.

Officers still considered the teenage suspect a serious threat. They said over the radio that he was armed with a shotgun and was trying to fire it – in which direction is not clear from the radio recordings.

“He keeps trying to pull the trigger and nothing happens,” police said.

Another potential danger: a a backpack that officers worried might have contained explosives. The police command advised the officers to be careful. Instead of rushing Thompson, they deployed robots to separate him from the potentially lethal weapon.

“Take the robot and pull it upright,” one officer said over the radio. “Get him out of that backpack.”

When rescuers finally reached the teenager shortly after 9:30 p.m., they reported a severe head injury. It remains unclear how he was injured.

“But he’s protecting his airway and breathing at this point. I have minimal other wounds,” said one of those who responded over the radio.

As of Saturday, WakeMed officials said Thompson was in critical condition. They have since refused to give an update on his status.

This story was originally published October 17, 2022 9:04 p.m.

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Lars Dolder is editor of The News & Observer’s Insider, the state government’s news service. He oversees exclusive product content and works with N&O’s policy department on research projects. He previously worked on N&O’s business desk covering retail, technology and innovation.

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Tyler Dukes is an investigative reporter for The News & Observer who specializes in data and public records. In 2017, he completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Before joining N&O, he worked as an investigative reporter at WRAL News in Raleigh. He graduated from North Carolina State University and grew up in Elizabeth City.

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