Family concerned with police response after man allegedly threatens teenagers with machete

A student said a man threatened him and a friend near Ashbrook High School on Tuesday.
Multiple witnesses said a man wielding a machete threatened teenagers near a Gaston County high school.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - There’s growing concern in Gastonia after multiple witnesses said a man wielding a machete threatened teenagers outside Ashbrook High School earlier this week.

Sixteen-year-old Skylar States said he was waiting for his ride home from school with a friend on Tuesday afternoon when a man he didn’t engage with started yelling at them outside a Boost Mobile store near the school.

States said the man went into the woods and came back with a machete.

“We were by ourselves getting backed up more towards the school, him just holding the knife in his hand. We were under a lot of pressure,” he said.

On the surveillance video from the cell phone store, a man can be seen pacing outside, carrying and attempting to conceal what looks like a weapon.

“He threatened some kids in a truck. He was cussing the whole time,” Dallas Carlson said.

Carlson was inside the store at the time of the alleged incident and said the owner locked the doors for safety.

“It’s like he was talking to himself but there were people involved, kids involved,” Carlson said.

Both States and the store owner said they called 911. The teen added that while his dad got there within five minutes, police took nearly 20 minutes to respond.

A spokesperson for the Gastonia Police Department confirmed about 15 to 20 minutes after the initial call, three officers responded. They investigated, found the man in the woods without a machete, and did not file a police report.

Police said roughly five to 10 minutes later, the officers high-tailed it to a homicide call.

States and his parents said they wished his case was taken more seriously.

“There’s at least 30, 40 kids waiting for their rides here, in the mornings too. You feel unsafe; you never know what can happen,” he said.

WBTV showed Gastonia police the surveillance video from the store, which they did not have. Now, they said the incident is something they will likely follow up on.

Gastonia Police Department officials also said they’ve been short-staffed, down almost 20 officers, but couldn’t say whether that contributed to Tuesday’s response time.

Related: Man arrested after deadly shooting reported near Gaston County middle school