FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — The teenager whose self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand sent Forsyth Technical Community College into lockdown allegedly brought a ghost gun from his high school and onto a school bus, according to the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Shannon Howard James Pitts, an 18-year-old student of Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy student, has been charged with two counts of possession of a weapon on educational property and one count of carrying a concealed gun. He received a $25,000 secured bond.

Investigators say that Pitts had a ghost gun with him at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy on Thursday and took it with him when he rode a school bus to Forsyth Tech.

Police say that Pitts was at Forstyh Tech alongside over 600 other high school students who were taking part in a career event at the campus.

The only difference between a ghost gun and a traditional firearm is the serial number. Ghost guns are missing the multi-digit code on the bottom. The guns look almost identical to the firearms deputies and officers carry to work every day.

Chief Deputy Steven Parr with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office spoke with FOX8 about concerns law enforcement agencies have about ghost guns in April 2022.

Forsyth County Sherrif Bobby Kimbrough says that the school system needs to put scanners that detect weapons in place that high school students have to pass through.

“I have said this for two years: At some point we have to revisit funding manned metal detectors in our schools,” said Kimbrough.

Winston-Salem Prep has metal detectors that are used randomly and at all large events, but they were not used on Thursday, according to Brent Campbell, the chief communications officer at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

“We always evaluate situations in order to make improvements, and will be certainly evaluating all aspects of this event,” Campbell said on Friday. “We are continually looking for ways to tighten safety and security.”

Pitts sat in court on Friday with his left arm and hand in bandages. His mother was in the courtroom as well and told the judge that Pitts is set to graduate on June 11.

Shannon Pitts looks toward a reporter after court on March 31. (Lauren Crawford/WGHP)
Shannon Pitts looks toward a reporter after court on March 31. (Lauren Crawford/WGHP)

On Thursday, Pitts was on the school’s campus when a gun fired and struck the teenager in the hand. The wound was non-life-threatening, and Pitts was taken to a hospital. The gunshot wound was reportedly self-inflicted. Winston-Salem Police Captain and District 3 Commander Shelley Lovejoy said investigators are still trying to find out if the shooting was intentional or accidental.

Officials say that the first call came in around 10:10 a.m. Thursday in reference to a person being shot on campus.

During a news conference Thursday evening, Forsyth County Tech Police Chief Carolyn McMackin said officers were told about a gunshot being heard near the second-floor restroom of the Strickland Center, which is on Silas Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem.

Pitts was found near the restroom with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

A TechAlert was sent to Forsyth Tech students Thursday morning asking students to shelter in place due to shots fired at the Strickland Center. The Early and Middle College at Forsyth Tech, which is part of Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, also sheltered in place.

Lovejoy has since revealed that this was not an “active shooter situation” and there is not an “active threat to the community.” There are no suspects at-large.

Inside the lockdown

During the lockdown, Patricia Bandy, who has a child attending Forsyth Tech, said she was in constant contact with her daughter.

“She first texted me just telling me that she loves me and telling me that there was an active shooter and telling me that she was hiding, and then she’s continuously texting me telling me that she’s still alive,” Bandy said. “Her friends have been texting me to tell me which building she’s in and to tell me that it doesn’t appear that the shooter is near the building. When you’re a parent, being on the same campus is too close. It’s too close to my kid.”

Forsyth Tech student Mindy Peneku was in class in Bob Greene Hall, the building next to Strickland, when the TechAlert went out. Peneku spoke with FOX8 at 11:18 a.m. and said the class was taking shelter under desks.

“Somebody’s trying to come in,” Peneku said during the call. “Somebody’s trying to come in. Oh my god. What are they doing? They’re barricading the doors right now.”

Students visiting campus

The superintendent of Stokes County Schools confirmed that there were Stokes County students on campus at the time.

While I do not have all of the details, I can confirm there were Stokes County Schools students on Forsyth Tech’s campus at the time of the shooting.  All Students have been accounted for and are safe.

Stokes County district administration and school staff are on site and have confirmed sixteen students from West Stokes, 14 students from South Stokes, and one student from North Stokes were on campus and are being held there by law enforcement.  The main bus from North Stokes had not arrived yet and that bus was re-routed back to North Stokes.

As soon as our students are released, they will come directly back to their school campuses.

This is still an ongoing investigation, and more information will be made available in the coming hours.  Again, there were students from Stokes County Schools on a field trip to Forsyth Tech during the shooting; however, all students and staff who were on these field trips have been accounted for and are safe.

We do not anticipate there is a threat to any of our schools in Stokes County at this time; however, we have been in contact with our local law enforcement and will be providing extra security to our school’s this afternoon.

Dr. Rice, Superintendent of Stokes County Schools

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools students are also accounted for, according to a representative.

Students who were attending events at Forsyth Tech are with their school representatives. All WS/FCS students are accounted for.  We have no reports of injury at this time but will keep you updated with more information.  Parents, please do not report to Forsyth Tech as the campus is on lockdown and following the shelter in place protocol. Our students will be brought back to their home schools as soon as possible.

Officials react

Mayor Allen Joines said in a phone interview with FOX8, “We know that there’s the possibility for something like this happening everyday, and so our thoughts go out to the students and faculty and administration there at Forsyth Tech, knowing it’s a very stressful situation. I want to thank our law enforcement, our sheriff and our police department, for their quick and I think very effective response. It’s a very difficult time across the country as we see these things happen and particularly comes right into your own backyard so to speak.”

Gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein tweeted “Everyone in Winston-Salem please be safe.”

Lawmakers during an active session commented on the lockdown. Rep. Amber Baker says that her mother lives just a half mile from the lockdown and is meant to be under lockdown, but suffers from dementia and doesn’t understand what’s happening.

Rep. Donny Lambeth’s daughter is a guidance counselor at Parkland High School, writing to FOX8 that she “had taken students from her school for a campus visit today when the word spread at FT she and her students were taken into the woods for their safety to get them away from campus so she and the students were not sure what was going on. But she texted me to alert me and her sisters. One of her sisters who works at home turned on the TV and started texting us about what was going on. So Karrie, my daughter, kept us up to date via text. She is safe, as are the students. Thank God prayers were answered.”

Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06) released the following statement on Thursday afternoon:

“Following reports of a shooting on Forsyth Tech’s campus, law enforcement and school leaders acted quickly to secure the campus. I commend their heroic efforts and thank them for protecting the students, faculty, and staff,” said Congresswoman Manning. “I have spent a great deal of time visiting and working with the Forsyth Tech community and I share their relief that this incident has been resolved with no fatalities. This shooting comes just a few days after a shooter at a Nashville school killed three students and three adults and just one day after North Carolina Republicans passed a law abolishing the state background check system. We must take steps now to reduce gun violence so that our students, teachers, and communities don’t have to live in fear. I am prepared to continue working with my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation that will reduce this scourge of violence.”

–Congresswoman Kathy Manning