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Street gunfight bullet hits teen sleeping in bed

Johnsha Nelson's favorite subject at South Pointe High School is history. And that's exactly what the 17-year-old could have been - history - if he had been sleeping next to the wall of his bedroom Sunday morning.

A bullet from what police say was a shootout blasted through the wall and lodged in his hip.

In Johnsha's bedroom on Carolina Avenue Extension, there are two twin beds. Right next to the pillow of that bed next to the wall is the hole where the bullet tore through the plaster and siding and wood.

The bullet tore through the pillow before Johnsha was hit in the hip while sleeping in the other bed.

"The time for all this nonsense out here in the street has to stop," said Johnsha's outraged mother, Sheila Nelson, who was asleep in the other bedroom when her son was injured. "My son could be dead. If he was in that other bed, the bullet would have went right into his face.

"Instead of going to the hospital Thursday to have the bullet taken out, I would be planning a funeral."

Sheila Nelson has every right to be angry. She works as a custodian at the same school her son attends. She knows his friends and who he hangs around with. The dollars she makes are hard-earned - emptying garbage cans and mopping floors.

She lives in Rock Hill's South Central neighborhood in a small rental house for one simple reason: "Because this is what I can afford."

Johnsha said he went to bed around 11 p.m. that night and never left. He had the television on and was doing what teenagers who stay home on a Saturday night do - talk and text on the phone, watch TV, check the computer.

"I heard the noise, and I guess it was the gunshot but I thought it could have been a bad dream that woke me up," Johnsha recalled. "I had a pain, but I thought maybe it was a bedspring, or maybe something bit me. But it kept hurting.

"That's when I saw the blood."

Sheila Nelson came into the bedroom to see why the TV was still on and found her son bloody and with a bullet in his hip that is still there.

"I called the police and told them somebody shot into my house," Nelson said. "Ever since then, I can't sleep. I don't feel safe in my own bed."

Police investigators believe the shot strayed from an incident that started right around the corner on Martin Street, Rock Hill Police spokesman Lt. Brad Redfearn said.

A woman who lives behind the Nelson home reported four shots fired and people sneaking around the house a few minutes before 4 a.m.

The shootout could have been gang-related - instigated by the arrest of a man who lives on Martin Street before the incident, according to police reports.

That house is just yards from the Nelson home, and there are paths behind Nelson's home where people walk to and from the nearby main drag, Saluda Street.

"My sliding glass door is four feet from where they run," Nelson said, "and that is not safe when they are shooting out there."

Investigators found the bullet hole in the wall and marked it for evidence. Now the evidence tape ruler - a "V" shape - is stuck on one wall of the same bedroom where the pictures of Johnsha Nelson as a baby, as a smiling kid, decorate the other wall.

That is what guns do - ruin the dreams of kids.

No arrests have been made, but police are asking anyone who might know what happened to step forward.

"Someone knows what happened," Redfearn said, "and they need to do the right thing and tell us."

There is some speculation in the police report that the feud might be the result of a gang-themed homemade video shot in part at a local nightclub before the incident.

If that is the case, the retirees and hard-working people of the South Central neighborhood deserve better than a ridiculous shootout over a video that leaders in the neighborhood and black community say portrays the opposite of the hard work most black families put in each day.

People have a right to be safe in bed at night without fear of being shot while inside their home, said Nathaniel Jaggers, president of the South Central Neighborhood Association and a longtime critic of young people running the streets with guns.

Real life is hard work, he said, not videos glamorizing weapons.

"Guns are lethal weapons, and these people who are out in the street shooting guns, they don't know who they can hit," Jaggers said. "This time a teenager was hit in his bed, with his mother right close by. This must stop."

The neighborhood south of downtown and west of Saluda Street is a predominantly black, working-class neighborhood with a mix of rental homes and older homeowners who have lived there for decades.

There is no denying there has been crime in South Central - crime numbers for the neighborhood are almost as high as anywhere, and the streets around where the Nelsons live have many vacant homes.

But Tuesday there were few people around during the day other than retirees. At other houses, kids played on a trampoline and rode bicycles.

Most residents were doing what people do during the day - work.

Rock Hill NAACP president Melvin Poole, told of the incident by neighbors, wants the culprits arrested so the majority of people in that neighborhood can live lives without fear of gunshots.

"The people of that neighborhood who work hard, and their families, deserve safety in their homes," Poole said Tuesday.

For Sheila Nelson, that safety now seems unreachable. Thursday, she has to take her son to a Charlotte surgeon to have the bullet pulled from his hip.

If there are people running around shooting at each other, Sheila Nelson spoke for all people who get up every day and go to work when she said the rest of the community needs to demand one action:

"They need to be put in jail."