Parents of accused North Carolina shooter express grief

RALEIGH, NC (AP) – The parents of a 15-year-old boy accused of killing five people in a North Carolina shooting rampage released a statement saying they are “overcome with grief” and saw no warning signs before the killings.

The statement Tuesday by Alan and Elise Thompson also confirmed that one of Austin Thompson’s five victims Thursday night was his own 16-year-old brother, James. Witnesses said in 911 calls that the shooter opened fire with what appeared to be a shotgun in a neighborhood northeast of downtown Raleigh and along an adjacent hiking trail.

“Our son Austin caused the Raleigh community immeasurable pain and we are overwhelmed with grief for the innocent lives lost,” the parents said.

They also said in their statement that they will cooperate fully with law enforcement to help investigators understand what happened, but that they have questions of their own. Authorities have not discussed a motive for the shootings.

“There were never any indications or warning signs that Austin was capable of doing anything like this,” the statement said.

Austin Thompson was hospitalized in critical condition following his arrest last Thursday night, hours after the shooting began. Elise Thompson said in a text message Wednesday that his condition had improved but that he remained in a pediatric intensive care unit. She declined to comment further.

The Associated Press generally does not name people under the age of 18 who are charged with crimes, but is identifying Austin Thompson because of the seriousness and publicity of the shooting and because his parents voluntarily named him in their public statement.

The Wake County prosecutor has said she will pursue adult charges against the suspect. Authorities had previously identified the shooter as a 15-year-old boy, but had not released his name.

Investigators have not disclosed where Austin Thompson got the gun or the weapons used in the shooting. An attorney for the parents did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday asking if the parents knew how he got the weapon he used.

Callers who called 911 during the shooting described encountering bodies on the streets or front yards of their neighborhoods and along a trail popular with runners and cyclists, according to footage released by authorities. Witnesses said the gunman wore camouflage and used a shotgun in the attacks, which began shortly after 1 p.m.

The shooting drew officers from multiple agencies to the neighborhood as the suspect eluded capture for several hours. The victims, who ranged in age from 16 to their late 50s, were felled in their daily routines, police and their loved ones said. Among those killed was an off-duty police officer. In addition to those killed, two others were injured.

Several people who knew Austin Thompson before the shooting — including a neighbor, a classmate and a victim’s husband who lived nearby — told the AP that he was quiet but seemed friendly.

Tracey Howard, whose wife of five years Nicole Connors was among those killed, said Austin Thompson and his brother lived two doors down. He said he wanted to talk college football with their dad and that he wanted to exchange waves with the two boys.

“I saw them coming from school. “How are you?” he said Friday, raising his arm to demonstrate. “They would wave back. Sometimes they didn’t. But we never had any beef or issues with them.”

Another neighbor, Jennifer Magnuson, said her three teenage children attended high school with the boys and rode the bus with them. She said her children described Austin and his brother as keeping to themselves.

“They said they were just very quiet, very shy. Didn’t talk very much on the bus. And they were kind of weird. Like, they just didn’t want to socialize, except with each other.”

She said her 16-year-old son tried to socialize with Austin and his brother, but the boys didn’t seem interested.

“My 16-year-old talked to them a few times, just to see, to get a feel for them. But they, the boys just seemed like they just didn’t want to be friends or just didn’t want to talk or something like that,” she said. “So my son says, ‘Okay. Well, I tried.’ And just, well, kept going.”

Omer Rosas, a sophomore at Knightdale High School who took classes with Austin Thompson, said they talked often in class and described him as personable. He said he was shocked to learn Friday morning that his classmate had been arrested in connection with the shooting. He said Austin Thompson liked to run and was considering joining the track team.

“I didn’t expect it to be him,” Rosas said in an interview outside the school Friday. “He was very calm. He wasn’t like a mean person. He was open to being nice to everybody.”

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Associated Press writer Hannah Schoenbaum contributed to this report.

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