New Hanover County to offer free counseling in wake of deadly mass shooting

Four injured victims of shooting are expected to survive, free counseling available

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In the wake of Saturday’s deadly mass shooting in Wilmington, New Hanover County officials announced they are partnering with Coastal Horizons and other community organizations to offer free counseling support to residents who have been impacted by the tragic event.

“The bullets now, they’ will penetrate through the walls and that’s all I could think about,” said Kim Eason, a witness to Saturday’s shooting.

Three people were killed and four others injured after a gun battle erupted at a house party on Kidder Street just after midnight on Saturday, April 3. Wilmington police have released few details about the shooting, as investigators work to determine how it began and who was responsible.

A spokesperson for the police department said the four hospitalized victims are still recovering and are expected to survive.

That shooting left Eason and others in Wilmington with an underlying sense of fear.

“What I heard about individuals living in the immediate area having to sleep on the floor or jump or dodge on the floor in fear of bullets coming through their homes-- it’s senseless,” said New Hanover County’s Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Linda Thompson.

To help ease those worries, New Hanover County is pushing to heal the community with a focus on the mental damage a tragedy like this can bring.

“I’m not a professional counselor, but we have had counselors who are now volunteering who want to come and help to triage the situation and find out where the greatest needs are and as a county and organizations like Coastal Horizons, our community justice services and others who are wanting to come together and help us in this effort,” said Thompson.

From Wednesday to Friday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily), licensed counselors, volunteers, and pastors will be on stand-by at Mt. Olive AME Church, located at 1001 South Seventh Street, to help any resident in need. Masks and social distancing will be required, officials say.

Anyone who needs to talk to someone and was directly impacted by the shooting can call 910-465-6100. All calls are confidential.

“Our goal is to give residents a place to talk and gather information for moving forward,” said Thompson. “We believe the trauma that has hit our community cannot be ignored. We must be willing to address the hurt before we can truly heal forward.”

Thompson hopes addressing mental health after tragedies may help put a stop to gun violence in the community. She believes children growing up in areas with gun violence problems experience the same traumas as those living in war-torn countries.

“It’s still very difficult to wrap our mind around why this is still happening,” said Thompson. “Before we can do anything, we’ve got to heal. We’ve got to address the trauma, the shock, the awe that so many people who live in that area or are connected to those families are experiencing right now.”

Although it might not solve the issue of gun violence, Thompson tells WECT it’s a place to start.

“This may not work, but something else may,” said Thompson. “As a community, we cannot be hopeless. We’ve got to realize that if we give up now, we’ll lose more lives and I don’t know about you but I’m not willing to do that.”

Copyright 2021 WECT. All rights reserved.