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Two Girls Shot At Theme Park Pool; One Dead

June 8, 1987

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Someone illegally target shooting may have been responsible for gunfire that killed a teen-ager and seriously wounded a 6-year-old girl in a theme park pool crowded with 2,000 people, police said.

Witnesses in the crowd at Ocean Island, a 25,000-square-foot pool with machine-made waves, watched in horror Sunday as the 16-year-old girl slumped off her raft into the bloodied waters.

″It was like she was floating dead,″ said 13-year-old Bryant Artis. ″Nobody knew what was going on.″

Michelle Ann Sexton of Rock Hill, S.C., died after a gunshot entered her back and exited through her chest, said Barbara Barnette, a spokeswoman at Charlotte Memorial Hospital.

The other girl, Alesha Rollins of Charlotte, underwent surgery Sunday for a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was listed in serious but stable condition, said hospital officials said today.

Mecklenburg County police had no suspects Sunday night, no witnesses who heard the shots and no certainty where they were fired from.

Security guards checked departing guests with a hand-held metal detector, but no guns were found. Scuba divers searched the pool and helicopters circled overhead.

″The problem is there’s been no weapon found, no weapon seen,″ said Garry Bickett, director of marketing at Carowinds. The 77-acre Carowinds park straddles the North Carolina-South Carolina border about 10 miles south of downtown Charlotte, and operates the adjacent 10-acre pool area.

Assistant Police Chief R.D. Ferrell said officers are theorizing that the two girls may have been shot by someone who was illegally target shooting outside the park. There is no target range in the area, ″but it’s not an unusual occurrence for some folks to come to that area to do this because it is sparsely developed,″ Ferrell said.

Ferrell said loud amusement park rides may have kept anyone from hearing the gunfire.

″At this point, we have no witnesses who can identify where the gunfire came from,″ Ferrell said. ″We’re looking at the angles to see if one projectile might have struck both victims.

″The weapon probably was a large caliber weapon,″ he said. ″It was probably a long gun, a rifle or a shotgun or something like that.″

Laura Brown, 37, said she was about 15 feet from Ms. Sexton in the middle of the wave pool when the girl slipped off the raft and her companion, a boy about the same age, yelled for help.

The 6-year-old was in the shallow end, about 60 feet away, Ms. Brown said.

″We heard a little girl screaming,″ said Robbie McLaughlin of Indian Trail. ″We thought she took in some water or fell. We didn’t know what was going on. Then we realized two people had been shot. People were screaming and yelling. Crying.″

The shootings occurred around 3:45 p.m. whenabout 2,000 people were at Ocean Island, said Carowinds spokeswoman Claire Lang. Bickett said about 8,000 people were in the theme park at 3 p.m.

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