BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — Police have charged a 19-year-old man with killing two teenagers and wounding four others in an early Sunday shooting at a house party on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Cameron Everest Brand of Pass Christian is charged with murder and aggravated assault, jail records show. Bay St. Louis Police Chief Toby Schwartz said in a news release that police identified Brand as the sole shooter through witness and victim statements.
An 18-year-old and a 16-year-old died in a New Orleans hospital, Schwartz said. The Orleans Parish coroner did not return a phone call seeking to confirm their identities.
Friends and family identified them as De’Arreis “DD” Smith, 18, and Haeleigh Stamper, 16, classmates at Hancock High School.
Smith was a senior getting ready to graduate, according to Kecia Sams, who considered him an adopted member of her family.
“De’Arreis Smith was an amazing soul, a loyal friend, brother and uncle,” Sams told Nola.com. “He was loved by many and will be missed so very much by his family.”
A GoFundMe account was set up to help with funeral expenses for Stamper. In the posting, the organizer, Lillie Smith, described the teen as a “sweet soul.”
“Her beautiful smile would light the whole room up,” Smith said.
Brand was arrested at his home in neighboring Pass Christian and taken to jail, Schwartz said. Bay St. Louis Municipal Court Judge Stephen Maggio denied Brand bail, and he was being held in the Hancock County jail. It is unclear if Brand has a lawyer who could speak for him.
Students had gathered for a party at the home on a sparsely populated road after Bay High School’s prom. Local news outlets reported that trails of blood could be seen on the pavement Sunday outside the home, while cars were peppered with bullet holes. The home is less than a mile from Bay High.
Police said the six victims wounded by gunfire ranged in age from 15 to 18. All were taken to area hospitals, some by helicopter.
Casey Woods, an 18-year-old student at Pass Christian High School, told the Sun Herald of Biloxi that he was at the party with a girlfriend. He told the paper he saw Brand talking to people and then walking away before he returned and the shooting started.
“Me and my girl looked up and saw sparks coming from the gun,” Woods said, adding many people ran into the woods.
Both of the teens who died had attended nearby Hancock High School in Kiln, officials in that school district said. Two more Hancock High students were shot and wounded, as were two students from Bay High. Those are the only two public high schools in Hancock County, on the western end of the Mississippi Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Gulfport.
“Our hearts are broken as we mourn the tragic loss of two Hancock High School students who were victims of the shooting in Bay St. Louis last night,” the Hancock County school district said in a statement, saying counselors would be available Monday at school. “Let us come together as a community to show our support and love during this difficult time.”
Sandra Reed, superintendent of the Bay St. Louis-Waveland school district, said both of the wounded Bay High students were expected to recover. Bay High Principal Amy Necaise said the school was making faculty and staff available on campus Sunday afternoon to counsel students.