Wm. Christian Stephens
On April 15, the suspect in Friday’s shotgun assault at New River Community College, located at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, made his first appearance in court.
The assault resulted in a wounded New River Community College worker and a student.
Classes were canceled Monday and today, and counselors waited at the community college’s main campus in Dublin and its satellite facility in the New River Valley Mall to meet with staff and students who did come in.
According to the Roanoke Times, Neil A. MacInnis, 18, of Christiansburg was arraigned on two counts of malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Maclnnis, a student at the college, is accused of walking into the mall facility Friday afternoon and opening fire.
The suspect in the NRCC shootings was taken into custody with a Stevens 12-gauge pump shotgun after shooting nine times inside the college, according to town police.
Police also said that, at this time, there does not appear to be any relationship between the suspect and the two female victims, Taylor Sharpe and Kristina Bousserghine.
According to Becky Wilburn, the spokeswoman for the town of Christiansburg, the shotgun used in the incident was legally acquired two days prior to the April 12 shooting from a licensed firearms dealer in the New River Valley. Wilburn explained that authorities are pursuing the wounding charge because its maximum penalty, 20 years in prison, is stiffer than the 10-year maximum for a charge of attempted murder.
Wilburn also stated that nine spent shell casings – from bird shot, buck shot and slugs – were recovered from inside the community college.
The victims, reported to be in stable condition over the weekend, have been identified as Sharpe and Bousserghine.
According to the Roanoke Times, Judge Gino Williams appointed on Mark Hicks to represent MacInnis, whose next court date is scheduled for June 18.
MacInnis’ uncle, Stewart MacInnis, said after the hearing that the family is planning to retain an attorney.
“We’re in the process of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible,” Stewart MacInnis said. “It was a very sleepless weekend for everyone in the family.”
Stewart MacInnis, who lives in Buena Vista, is a spokesman for Virginia Military Institute. He is also acting as spokesman for the MacInnis family, he said.
“He’s my nephew. We love him,” Stewart MacInnis said. “We’re going to be here for him as much as we can.”
MacInnis did not make a statement during Monday ‘s hearing. Williams read each charge to him and asked him if he understood the charge. MacInnis answered each time with “yes.”
According to a search warrant filed Monday morning, before the shooting incident, MacInnis left a note at his place of employment that stated he was going to “ruin his life.”
In an online posting attributed to him, MacInnis called the shooting he planned “not a highscores game but actually a lesson (that’s why I’m at school).”
Wilburn said in a statement issued Monday afternoon that, “During his interview with detectives following the shooting, MacInnis stated he ‘was having a bad week.’ His motive otherwise remains unclear.”
According to MacInnis’ online profiles on his NRCC portfolio and at LinkedIn, he worked at Christiansburg’s Old Navy store. A manager at Old Navy on Saturday declined to comment on MacInnis.
According to The Roanoke Times, the warrant obtained by the police states that a Stevens model 320 12-gauge shotgun was seized, along with a Walmart receipt listing the purchase of shotgun ammunition on April 12. Also seized was a box of Federal 12-gauge ammunition containing 18 rounds, a box of Remington 12-gauge slug ammunition containing five rounds, an ATM receipt from April 12 for $300, a laptop, an iPhone, and a Stevens shotgun box, among other items, including an “encounter date record” from Carilion Clinic.
According to The Roanoke Times, the warrant was for searching the Honda Civic. It is unclear if all of those items were found in the car or if some of those items were found on MacInnis at the time of his arrest.
Stewart MacInnis said the family is unaware of any motive in the shootings or where the alleged firearm used was obtained. The gun was not from the MacInnis household, he said.
Six of Neil MacInnis’ family members attended Monday’s arraignment, including his parents and older brother, Stewart MacInnis said. According to The Roanoke Times, Neil MacInnis’ parents have not visited or spoken to their son since the attack, he said Monday morning.