Dad, friends remember NC teen fatally shot at amusement park

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The 19-year-old who was shot in the Jungle Rapids parking lot Wednesday night has died, the Wilmington Police Department announced Thursday.

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Christopher Tyler White, of Wilmington, was shot shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Police say they believe this isn’t a random incident and that the victim may have known the shooter.

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A witness told police they saw a male running from the parking lot. There is no other suspect information at this time.

According to officials with New Hanover County Schools, White was attending the alternative school program housed at the Moseley Performance Learning Center before he withdrew from the district in 2012.

According to the North Carolina Department of Corrections, White had previous criminal charges.

Friends and family remembered White as an outgoing kid who could make anyone smile.

According to his dad, Brian Self, White was going down the wrong path a few years ago, and enrolled himself in the Tar Heel Challenge boot camp.

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Self said his son made a total change while in the boot camp, losing more than 100 pounds and changing his attitude.

White was enrolled in the boot camp from 2014-15.

Family friend Billie Edwards remembered White coming back from boot camp a changed person.

“He was kind of going down the wrong road at one time, but he wanted to straighten his life up so he went to boot camp and when he came out, he had done a whole (180),” she said.

Then, after a little while, his dad said things changed.

“He was doing so good and I don’t know what happened after that. I just don’t know what made him go to a different direction in life,” Self said. “He just went down the wrong path and started hanging out with the wrong people, and that’s not any different than anyone else has done in their life. I’ve done it and I’m sure other people have, but he didn’t get a chance to live to change his life like I have and everybody else. His life was taken from him way too soon.”

According to Self, police told White’s family that White was shot once on the left side of his neck. Self said this is the same place White had a cancerous tumor removed when he was 2.

Self said he’ll remember his son as the kid that always wanted others to be happy.

“He had bright blue eyes like his mother,” Self said. “He was my son, my only kid and I just will miss him because I love him and he just always brought joy to my life and other people’s lives.”

Sam Highsmith, the assistant principal at Myrtle Grove Middle School when White attended, said he remembered White as a respectful student.

“He was a fun-loving kid, loved his family, loved football and his friends,” Highsmith said. “Even when he was having a bad day, we could get that smile out of him.”

A former classmate at Myrtle Grove had similar memories of White.

“He never got into serious trouble that would land him anywhere that I remember,” Michael Scott Keffer said.

The shooting at Jungle Rapids marked the third in one week in Wilmington. Edwards said something needs to be done about the violence.

“It’s just heartbreaking. We’ve lost so many people and so many teenagers within two weeks,” Edwards said. “It’s just heartbreaking and I just sit there and think, ‘You know, what if my son would’ve been with him that night?’ He could have been dead or alive with him. That’s just a scary thought.”

“You can’t be safe anywhere. The community needs to come together. People need to start speaking up. … Something needs to be done because it’s getting out of hand.”

Self had a message for parents.

“Raise your children right and pray for them,” Self said. “Just pray for the best and hope that they don’t wind up in this situation because this is the worst feeling that any parent will ever go through in their entire life. You don’t want that phone call.”

If you have any information on this case, contact the Wilmington Police Department at 343-3609 or send an anonymous tip to Text-A-Tip by texting “CRIMES” and starting the text with “Tip708.”

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