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Charges, Reaction Follow NJ Prep Football Shooting

Paul Steinbach

Six individuals have been charged in the shooting that sent spectators and players scurrying for cover at a high school football game Friday night in Pleasantville, N.J.

Around a half-dozen gun shots interrupted the third quarter of a Central Jersey Group II playoff game between Pleasantville and Camden, which was leading 6-0 at the time of the incident.

As reported by The Washington Post, Alvin Wyatt, 31, has been charged with three counts of attempted murder along with other charges, Atlantic County prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said in a statement Saturday. Michael Mack, 27; Tyrell Dorn, 28; Shahid Dixon, 27; and Vance Golden, 26, were charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. Dixon is also charged with eluding.

One of the victims is also being charged with a crime. Ibn Abdullah, 27, is being charged with unlawful possession of a handgun, a first-degree crime, because he has a prior conviction for first-degree robbery, authorities said. He’s also being charged with certain persons not permitted to possess a handgun. Abdullah is in stable condition and will be undergoing surgery.

A 10-year-old was struck in the neck and is currently under care at a Philadelphia hospital, said Pleasantville Police Department public information officer Matthew Hartman at a news conference Saturday. A 15-year-old male suffered a graze wound.

“I was gonna go in for defense. As soon as I heard the gun shots, all my brothers, all my teammates were crying and they just started running,” Pleasantville High School senior defensive lineman Fernando Flores-Zelaya said in a video posted online by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter.

“As soon as I got into the gym, all my teammates were crying,” Flores-Zelaya said. “I was worried for my sister, my teammates, and all my friends … It’s horrible, man. Worst feeling I ever felt in my entire life.”

Larry White, executive director of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, issued the following statement, as reported by Tapinto Camden:

“Our thoughts are with all those impacted by the Friday evening shooting in Pleasantville, where a scholastic football game was being played between Pleasantville High School and Camden High School.  We are extremely appreciative of law enforcement officers, school administrators and educators, and members of both communities for their support during and in the aftermath of this incident.

“After discussions with administrators and coaches from both schools, as well as with law enforcement officials, the decision has been made to complete the game on Wednesday, November 20, at a neutral site that will be closed to the public. Utilizing a neutral, closed site will enable student-athletes to conclude their game without outside distraction.

“To be clear, the decision to complete the approximately 17 minutes remaining in this game was made by both schools. It was based not on any desire for an athletic championship, but to provide closure and send a powerful message that acts of violence and those who perpetrate them will not win. The outcome of this game will be decided where it should be – on the playing field.

“I’m humbled by the courage of our student-athletes; no matter what the scoreboard says, they all are winners. Echoing comments made by Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, ‘Our community will not be held hostage.’”

Additional reaction came from area football coaches and athletic directors, who anticipate changes to event security — ranging from pat downs to metal detectors to more visible police presence — in the shooting's aftermath.

“High school athletics is about to change significantly because of violence, because of the threat of violence,” West Deptford football coach and athletic director Jason Morrell told the Courier-Post on Saturday.

“I think everyone will beef up the security, meaning add more armed security. I think in a situation where you have school personnel, teachers as supervisors, you’ll probably go in a different direction.”

“Anything you can do to prepare for a tragic situation is something we need to do,” added Millville athletic director Dave LaGamba. “Unfortunately, last night is literally one of the worst-case scenarios. You don’t want something like that to ever happen.

“As far as patting down, that might be something that occurs in the future at many football venues. It’s a sad state of affairs when that happens, when you’re getting patted down at a high school event, but you want to make sure everybody’s safe.”

“Metal detect you, look through your bag, all that stuff is probably going to happen because of this one high school event,” Winslow head coach Kenny Scott said. “You don’t want to see a repeat.”

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