Students return to class after teen classmate shot on school grounds

Albemarle community comes together for vigil after school shooting
(Mark Davenport | WBTV)
(Mark Davenport | WBTV)
Bernard Miller, 17, was shot outside Albemarle High School (Photo courtesy of friend)
Bernard Miller, 17, was shot outside Albemarle High School (Photo courtesy of friend)

ALBEMARLE, NC (WBTV) - Students have returned to Albemarle High School just 24 hours after a teen classmate was shot on school grounds following an argument with a juvenile.

Wednesday morning students went back to school with additional security on campus after 16-year-old Bernard Miller was shot Tuesday morning.

"It was different. It wasn't loud like it normally is. It was like a sad feeling, depressing almost," student Tierra Williams said.

Another student, Dream Johnson, said he was surprised that they had school. He said it went better than he thought it would. "I did kind of feel a little nervous thinking about what happened yesterday, but I made my way here and I feel happy that I did," he said.

Albemarle Police Chief William Halliburton says a juvenile, Jaylen Russell, is in custody after allegedly shooting Miller. According to Halliburton, Russell and Miller began arguing before Russell reportedly shot Miller twice.

Russell then reportedly laid the handgun down and walked into the principal's office and turned himself in, Halliburton said. He is facing assault with a deadly weapon charges.

Miller is in stable condition after being wounded in the lower body. He was initially taken to Stanly Regional Medical Center before being moved to Charlotte for medical treatment.

Wednesday morning, school officials held a press conference saying extra security would be on campus as students returned, but reminded people that this was an isolated incident.

WBTV has learned that extra security will also be available as school is dismissed for the day Wednesday.

Counselors were on hand to support students and staff, school officials said.

Tuesday evening, Montgomery County Schools officials released a statement saying they had been made aware of the reports saying a former student was involved in the shooting.

"Due to Federal privacy laws, there is very little that the school system can say regarding current or former students," the statement read. "We can confirm that the young man mentioned in news reports was a student at Montgomery Learning Academy and is no longer a student at Montgomery County Schools."

The statement was issued after the Montgomery Herald newspaper wrote an article saying Russell was "involved in a stabbing at West Montgomery High School field house last year following an altercation with another football player."

Tuesday morning, Albemarle High was placed on lockdown for a short time and the last student was evacuated from the school at 9:06 a.m.

"This is our worst nightmare, a shooting at a school, that is why we practice," Halliburton said. "I think our response was tremendous."

Over the summer, Stanly County held a multi-agency training drill that involved a simulated fatality situation involving 25 officers, fire, and EMS. He says he saw a lot of the same faces during Tuesday's incident and that the drill was beneficial for days like Tuesday.

Stanly County Schools' Superintendent Terry Griffin thanked police and first responders on Tuesday afternoon saying the "safety of students is our first priority."

"We are in the process of reviewing the situation and meeting with local law enforcement to review our current security procedure," Griffin said. "We will make sure student are safe in the future. We practice drills, but until it happens we don't know how we will perform."

Griffin says initial indications don't reveal anything that would have alerted school officials to a possible issue.

All students were dismissed for the day. A staging area was set up for parents to pick up students at the parking lot of North Albemarle Baptist Church on Park Ridge Road.

First Presbyterian Church in Albemarle held a prayer vigil Tuesday night for Albemarle High School.

Many people attended the vigil, including Jametrius Wilhite, who played football with Miller the previous year.

"I was walking up and heard gunshots and I ran up to see who it was and saw him laying there on the ground. It was crazy," White said.

Vanessa Little, the grandmother of a student who was with the accused gunman moments before the shooting, was also at the vigil.

"They were walking with the guy that did the shooting and said that he said he was going to shoot the guy that he shot. And when they heard the gun shots, she ran and got back on the bus," Little said.

Police say they are interviewing people who might have been near the incident to learn new details. The investigation will be handed off to the District Attorney to determine if Russell will be charged as an adult.

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