© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A suspect is wanted in the shooting of a 6-year-old after a ball rolled into his yard

Robert Louis Singletary, 24, is facing four counts of attempted first-degree murder and other charges after Tuesday night's shooting.
Gaston County Police
Robert Louis Singletary, 24, is facing four counts of attempted first-degree murder and other charges after Tuesday night's shooting.

Updated April 20, 2023 at 8:35 PM ET

Authorities are still looking for the suspect who shot a 6-year-old girl and several others after a basketball rolled into his yard.

Police in Gaston County, N.C., say 24-year-old Robert Louis Singletary shot three individuals shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night in a neighborhood outside of Gastonia, a city about 20 miles west of Charlotte.

One man and one child were seriously injured, a woman was grazed by a bullet and another man was "shot at but not injured." One adult remained hospitalized as of Wednesday, police chief Stephen Zill said in a statement.

"I want to say to the people of Gaston County — this sort of violence will not stand," he added. "We conducted a large-scale search overnight for Mr. Singletary and we have partnered with the United States Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force to aid us as we continue to search."

Singletary is wanted on four counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflicting serious injury.

Authorities describe him as 6 feet, 2 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes, weighing about 225 pounds, according to member station WFAE.

Singletary was already awaiting trial on felony charges from a December 2022 incident in which he allegedly beat his girlfriend in the head with a mini-sledgehammer and forbade her from leaving his apartment until she had cleaned up the evidence, according to WSOC-TV.

Police say anyone with information about the shooting or Singletary's whereabouts should call 911, their detective at 704-866-3300 or Crime Stoppers of Gaston County, which is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to his arrest.

'Why did you shoot my daddy and me?'

Local media have identified the victims of the shooting as 6-year-old Kinsley White and her parents, William White and Ashley Hilderbrand.

Neighbors told WSOC-TV that several young kids were playing basketball when their ball rolled into Singletary's yard. He ran down the street, firing at a neighbor before approaching White, who was playing outside in her yard.

He shot White in the face before turning his gun on her father, who had run over to protect her. A bullet also grazed Hilderbrand's elbow, the Gaston Gazette reports.

Family members told the newspaper that they saw Singletary "chasing" William, who collapsed bleeding on the ground and remains hospitalized with liver damage.

Kinsley was released from the emergency room after doctors removed bullet fragments from her cheek (and gave her an Almond Joy candy bar).

The next day, speaking to the Gazette while holding her grandfather's hand, the kindergartner said she was feeling a bit better. They didn't even know the man, she added.

"Why did you shoot my daddy and me?" she said. "You tried to shoot a kid's dad."

Kinsley's grandmother, Carolyn Hilderbrand, said there had been problems ever since Singletary moved into the neighborhood several weeks earlier, with him "cursing kids" and "running them out of his yard." And their family is eager to see him brought to justice.

"I believe he would have got me and my husband too," she added. "He just ran out of bullets."

Yet another shooting in response to a mistake

This is the fourth high-profile incident in less than a week in which apparent mistakes were met with gunshots.

Teenager Ralph Yarl was shot and injured after ringing the wrong doorbell in Missouri. Kaylin Gillis, 20, was fatally shot when her friends' car pulled into the wrong driveway in upstate New York. And two high school cheerleaders in Texas were injured, one critically, after one accidentally got into the wrong car after practice.

"Rage-induced shootings" are on the rise, though still relatively rare, says Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

She says information about this type of shooting comes from media reports, survey data and law enforcement statements since there is no national repository. Data is captured at the local level and there's no uniform system for sharing it, she tells Morning Edition.

What does the research say about why people are feeling provoked, or justified, to shoot in these situations? Anderman points to a confluence of factors over the last few years including an increase in gun ownership, a "steady weakening" of gun laws in many states and the gun industry's "narrative of fear" that encourages people to arm up at all times for self-defense.

The result, she says, "is people using guns offensively, not defensively, and at a hair's provocation."

More than half of Americans have dealt with gun violence in their personal lives, according to a KFF poll released earlier this month.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.