Four Boys Shot at North Carolina Church Playground

Community in Rocky Mount gathers for prayer after tragic shooting.

Posted: 01/29/2014 11:03 AM EST

A church community in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, gathered Tuesday for a concert of prayer after four young boys were shot at the church's playground on Monday evening.

Nyreek Horne, 12, was critically wounded after being shot in the head. Three other boys, a 13-year-old, 17-year-old and 19-year-old, were treated for wounds at an area hospital and released, according to the Associated Press. More than 15 gunshots rang out as about two dozen neighborhood teens played basketball on the courts of the World Tabernacle Church.  

Rev. James Gaillard ran out of his office when he heard the gunfire. The pastor held Nyreek as he bled until help came. "He was shot in the eye and the bullet went out the back of his brain," Gaillard said to AP. "He was struggling to breathe, but he was fighting."

Associated Press reports:

Witnesses could provide only a vague description of the shooter, who ran away and was seen getting into a small, light-colored SUV. Rocky Mount police are asking members of the public to come forward with any information that might help lead them to a suspect.

It was the latest shooting in a small Southern city dealing with violent crime on a scale typical in more urban areas. The shooting at the church happened days after a funeral for 15-year-old Brian Freeman, who was walking home with a friend when a car pulled up and someone started firing.

A city of nearly 60,000 located about 50 miles east of Raleigh, Rocky Mount sits along Interstate 95 — a primary north-south corridor for moving drugs and illegal guns between major East Coast cities. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI crime statistics are available, the homicide rate in Rocky Mount was more than twice that of New York City.

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 (Photo: AP Photo/The Rocky Mount Telegram, Hannah Potes)

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