A woman legally carrying a pistol fatally shot a man who opened fire in a crowd of people attending a graduation party in Charleston, West Virginia, on Wednesday, police said.
WCHS reported that Dennis Butler was killed after he allegedly began shooting at people with an AR-15-style rifle during a graduation party near the Vista View Apartment complex at 1300 Renaissance Circle. Law enforcement said the woman immediately engaged and neutralized the threat that could have led to a “mass casualty” incident.
“This lady was carrying a lawful firearm … a law abiding citizen who stopped the threat of probably 20 to 30 people being killed. She engaged the threat and stopped it. She didn’t run from the threat. She engaged it, preventing a mass casualty here in Charleston,” Charleston Police Department Chief of Detectives Tony Hazelett said.
While few details were provided about the incident, police said the shooter had an extensive criminal history and were unsure how he obtained the firearm. An investigation also revealed that the shooter had been approached earlier that night about speeding through the area of the party where children were playing.
“There was a graduation party, a party with kids,” Hazelett said, estimating that dozens of people were at the event. “So obviously somebody just graduated high school and another birthday party. We could have had a casualty shooting there.”
Hazelett said the woman will not be charged. No one else was injured during the attack.
Multiple witnesses agreed to fully cooperate with the investigation, which will be reviewed by the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office.
WCHS reporter Danielle Dindak first reported the shooting on Twitter Wednesday evening.
“SHOOTING – First responders tell me one person was shot here at Renaissance Circle. The person was taken to the hospital. Their condition is unknown. I’m working to find out if anyone is in custody. MORE DETAILS TO COME,” she tweeted.
While a private citizen in West Virginia risked her life to stop a shooter carrying an AR-15-style rifle, a Texas Department of Public Safety official said officers at the scene of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, didn’t immediately enter the school and neutralize the threat because “they could’ve been shot.”
“They are receiving gunshots. At that point, if they proceeded any further not knowing where the suspect was at, they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed, and that gunman would have had an opportunity to kill other people inside that school.”