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Reaper’s Realm owners promise beefed-up security after weekend shooting

CHINA GROVE — A day after one person was shot and law enforcement responded en masse to a local haunted house where they called the scene “chaotic,” the owners are speaking out with a promise to increase security.

At Reaper’s Realm in the China Grove area on Saturday night, one person was shot and five juveniles were arrested. The owners of the haunted house and trail said in a statement published online the incident was the first time they’ve ever had to call the police or emergency responders in 10 years of operation.

“We are a family-owned business that has been in operation for 10 years. We have family, children, and friends that work here. This is not the kind of behavior that is welcomed at our haunt. Our No. 1 priority is to keep our customers and workers safe,” the Facebook post said.

Owners said they hire off-duty police officers to provide security each night and assured customers that off-duty officers were at the business when the shooting occurred.

“We are currently working on a plan to increase security for the rest of our haunt season,” the Facebook statement said.

The owners said the shooting occurred in the upper parking lot and that the altercation occurred between underage teens from Charlotte that had illegal firearms.

According to its website and with COVID-19 still a concern, Reaper’s Realm took precautions to have sanitizing stations, require masks, require temperature checks for actors and staff as well as reducing capacity, social distancing and time ticketing.

But the Sheriff’s Office said Sunday there were more than 1,000 people gathered at the opening night for the haunted house and trail. People traveled locally, from elsewhere in the region and out-of-state to be at the China Grove business. Some had pre-purchased tickets. A spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said outdoor haunted trails and corn mazes fall under phase 2.5 mass gathering restrictions, which are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Under Cooper’s executive order, large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits.

It’s not clear how more than 1,000 people were allowed to visit Reaper’s Realm at one time.

The Post didn’t receive a response when it contact Reaper’s Realm to talk about the incident. A woman at the haunted house/trail referred a Post reporter to a statement it sent, but the Post received no such statement.

The Sheriff’s Office said in a news release the shots fired call came in at about 8:25 p.m. Saturday. Multiple law enforcement agencies were called to assist with crowd control, including the Concord Police and State Highway Patrol. At one point, shots were fired a second time by people at the event, the law enforcement statement said.

The Sheriff’s Office said five juveniles taken into custody will face charges in the juvenile justice system. Investigators also seized three handguns from the scene.

Officers used pepper spray on some people who refused to cooperate with officers’ requests that they disperse and stop fighting. Rowan EMS and local fire departments were called in to help with traffic and treat anyone injured.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, one person took himself to Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center for a gunshot wound to his foot. The person, officials said, is from the Charlotte area and told investigators he did not know he had been shot until he left the event.

The victim provided only limited information. He was treated and released from the hospital.

Law enforcement used inmate transport vehicles to shuttle teens to a nearby Walgreens and reunite them with their parents who began arriving at the scene.

Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten said deputies are “diligently working on this,” but did not respond to further questions from the Post on Monday. Auten said the Sheriff’s Office would provide more information when possible.

A silver Dodge Ram fled the scene, and the vehicle’s occupants are suspected to have fired a number of shots during this incident, the Sheriff’s Office said. Anyone with information about this shooting incident is requested to call 704-216-8711 for 1st Lt. Rodney Mahaley; 704-216-8662 for Detective Josh Simmons; or Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245

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