Thursday’s shooting incident at Whiteville’s Sandy Ridge apartment complex beside Nolan Park has increased calls for a larger, county-owned park outside of the city.
Shane Hardee, whose daughters play Dixie Youth ball, will address the county commissioners tonight (Monday) on the advantages of establishing a larger park outside of the city.
Hardee said in a Facebook post that he was talking with commissioners and others before Thursday’s incident that left parents and players diving for cover.
Dashad Maultsby, 29, is being held under a $2.085 million bond on charges ranging from assault with intent to kill to narcotics violations and firearms charges. Maultsby has a lengthy arrest record, according to jail and court documents. He is alleged to have shot Robert Avant in the head and shooting Katrina Huggins and her unborn child. Huggins and the baby are expected to recover. Avant is in critical condition. That investigation is continuing.
Nolan Park is operated by the city. Park patrons regularly complain of gunfire, drug dealing and other alleged illegal activities flowing out from Sandy Ridge into the park. The rec center and other facilities at the park have been damaged by gunfire on several occasions. Sandy Ridge has been the scene of several murders and assaults, as well as complaints about shots fired into and around Nolan Park. The park complex wraps around Sandy Ridge from Recreation Center Drive to Nolan Drive.
Management at the apartment complex did not respond to requests for comment.
City officials released a statement Monday assuring the public that the police department is doing all it can to secure the facility. Without mentioning the park complex by name, the statement said the “recent events” “have citizens concerned for their safety.
“The City of Whiteville is committed to ensuring the safety of its visitors, residents and park users,” the statement reads. “The City of Whiteville is committed to doing everything possible, within the law, to make our City a safe place to live, work and visit.”
The statement also encouraged public cooperation in the investigation of Thursday’s shootings and other incidents.
“Each community working together will help ensure the safety of its citizens,” the statement reads. “If you see something out of the ordinary, please report the incident to 911 and the Whiteville Police Department will respond to investigate.
Immediately after Thursday’s incident, parents filled social media with declarations that they would no longer allow their children to participate in sports at the park.
“I’ve had parents from out of town tell me that their kids will not be traveling here to play ball again,” one parent said Friday. He asked not to be identified. He also praised the actions of city officials who were at the park Thursday, and the efforts by police to crack down on crime in the area.
City Manager Darren Currie, Parks Director Blake Spivey, and Parks Events Coordinator Charlotte Almada shielded children and rushed them into the concrete dugouts while the gunfight between Maultsby and Avant sent multiple rounds flying across the busy ballfields. Currie is a coach for one of the teams. Other parents fled for the cover of vehicles in the parking lot and the recreation center, where games were also taking place.
For years, Shane Hardee has encouraged city and county officials to take full advantage of Whiteville’s central location to attract youth tournaments and other events that would bring families from out of town into the city.
When the Nolan Park expansion began via a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant, Hardee was one of several parents who encouraged the city to focus on providing enough baseball and softball fields to host large events. Officials instead leaned more toward soccer and multipurpose fields, citing the need to offer a more diverse selection of sporting opportunities to improve the city’s chances with the PARTF grant process.
In a social media post over the weekend, however, Hardee encouraged coaches and parents to cancel games and practices for tonight, and instead attend the county commissioners meeting at 6:30 p.m.
“I have been quiet publicly regarding the events at the Whiteville ballfields last Thursday night,” Hardee wrote. “I and others, including some Commissioners have been trying to work toward a solution so that we at least do our best to insure this never happens again.”
“It’s time that we devote money to a modern sports facility that is centrally located within the County; can host tournaments of all kinds to generate revenue; will be attractive to families and businesses to relocate here; and most of all provide a safe environment for our children and grandchildren to participate in athletics without fear of being struck by stray gunfire or exposed to drug activity.”
The shooting incident was not the first from Sandy Ridge to cross into Nolan.
Jeffrey Crawford was shot in Sandy Ridge on March 14. Crawford refused to cooperate with police, but the investigation is continuing.
In September 2019, park workers found the body of a Clarkton man near the recreation center. Investigators said Cavon Jones had been visiting a friend at the Sandy Ridge complex when he fled from another individual who chased him into the park. He was shot multiple times.
In July 2019, a father and son were jailed after a revenge shooting left a man dead.
Diondi Xavier Sadler, 25, was killed at the Sandy Ridge apartment complex in Whiteville around 4:20 p.m. on July 30. Sadler had been injured in a shooting on July 13 in the parking lot of Ivy’s restaurant.
Natrell Ky-El McKinnies, 22, was charged with murder. His father, Nathan McKinnies, 46, was charged with accessory after the elder McKinnies witnessed the shooting and then helped his son flee the scene.
In each case, Whiteville Police said, witnesses refused to cooperate with investigators.
In September 2017, Bobby Lee Johnson was shot to death in the parking lot of the apartment complex. He was shot multiple times in the chest and abdomen, according to investigators. Despite there being a crowd in the parking lot at the time of the shooting, police found no witnesses to the killing. Police had to provide immediate care for the victim while securing the scene for emergency medical teams to make entry.
That killing was just one of several shooting incidents in the Sandy Ridge and Nolan Avenue area during 2017-18 that police suspected were gang related.