Photo by Sue Watson
John Paul Carpenter, owner of Oak Palace, looks at a front window shattered by gunfire.

Drive-by shooting disrupts party

A back-to-school party for college students was ruined Thursday night when a shooter peppered people with gunfire as they stood in line at Oak Palace, according to Holly Springs Police Chief Dwight Harris.

Two males were injured and airlifted to the Regional One Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., he said.

One of the airlifted persons was in stable condition and the other in critical condition Friday, he said.

The individuals sustained multiple gunshot wounds. They were both still alive as of Monday, according to Harris.

Oak Palace owner John Paul Carpenter said this group has about three or four parties a year. This was the second one this year, preceeded by the party at the end of school last spring. He said he has let this group hold parties about three times a year for the last four or five years.

The organizers said they used to have to go to places in the county, to Oxford, Tupelo or Memphis, Tenn., Carpenter said. They wanted to have the party in the area in a nice place, he said.

A police unit was on the scene when the shooting took place about 11:35 p.m., Harris said, but was unable to back out and pursue the vehicle in time to apprehend the shooter(s), who apparently fired weapons through an open window as they drove past the venue toward Van Dorn Avenue.

It was not determined whether there was more than one shooter, Harris said, but there was sufficient time to fire off approximately 50 rounds, with shell casings found on the road surface beginning in front of  Oak Palace.

Besides projectiles that struck the two who were injured and shattered glass from a window in the front of Oak Palace, two vehicles were struck that belonged to students at Rust College, he said. One vehicle had as many as 10 holes in its body.

Harris said the vehicles were processed overnight following the shooting.

Carpenter said he got a call from a person many years ago who wanted a place to hold parties and had no place to have one in Holly Springs except for “tonks.”

“There’s nothing to do here. That’s how I got into this,” Carpenter said. “It’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made trying to be nice.”

Carpenter said he didn’t learn of the shooting until he checked on the property around 7:30 Friday morning.

The party does not usually get going until around 10 p.m. or later. The organizer was checking IDs at the door and a long line of people were waiting out front on the porch to get their tickets, he said, when the shooting took place.

Oak Palace has been used for weddings, parties, and church groups have held services in the building over the years, Carpenter said. Most events are reunions or sweet-16 parties, he said.

He has had Oak Palace up for sale for several months.

“Because I’m 80 years old,” Carpenter explained as the reason he wants to sell it.

“He decided it was time to retire and give up something,” said his wife, Phyllis Carpenter.

Both were upset because they didn’t get a call from the police to inform them about the shooting incident and learned about it when driving up Friday morning.

Ishmell Edwards, vice presi­dent at Rust College, said the event was not sponsored or sanctioned by Rust College.

Three students received some scrapes from running and falling, he said. They were taken to Alliance Hospital and then released.

No students reported to his office after the incident, he said.

“We’re thankful no Rust College students were seriously hurt in it,” he said.

He said an individual who was sponsoring the event could have been a member of a fraternity but “to my knowledge no fraternity was sponsoring it.”

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388

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