WCU student shot at off-campus apartment

This story was written by Quintin Ellison and Dave Russell, originally published in The Sylva Herald.

Corey Ladarrius Alston is a member of WCU’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams. Donated Photo

Jackson County detectives are investigating another shooting involving a Western Carolina University student, less than three weeks after a WCU junior was shot and killed at the campus’ back entrance.

Corey Ladarrius Alston, 19, was shot in the leg at about 9 p.m. Tuesday at River Walk Apartments. He is a sophomore from Charlotte majoring in political science and minoring in psychology. He is a member of WCU’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

Alston was scheduled Wednesday to undergo surgery for “non-life threatening injuries” at Mission Hospital in Asheville, according to Jackson County Sheriff Chip Hall.

There is no known connection between the two shootings. No arrests had been made in connection with Tuesday’s incident as of press time Wednesday.

“This is isolated and we have no reason to feel there is a threat to the community,” Hall said. “We’re continuing to conduct interviews, collect statements and get video footage from the apartment complex.”

On Oct. 6, Hendersonville resident Jacob Ray, 21, was fatally wounded in what court documents indicate was possibly a drug-related incident. A fellow student, 19-year-old freshman Aja Makalo, of Charlotte, and a 17-year-old man police identified as her friend, Zavion Southerland, also from Charlotte, each face a murder charge.

River Walk Apartments, on Ledbetter Road, is about 2 miles from campus. Private developers built the complex in 2015. Students pinpointed the shooting as taking place in Building 200, apartment 32. There are 490 bedrooms in River Walk and eight buildings, not including the clubhouse.

A resident called 911 to report the shooting, saying: “Somebody came into my friend’s apartment and shot one of my friends,” according to an audio recording.

“Do you know who it was?” the dispatcher asked.

“They came in with masks on … they ran.”

The caller said Alston had been shot “right below the knee.”

Police-scanner traffic indicates three or four males might have been involved. WCU campus police issued a campus-wide alert at 10:28 p.m. Tuesday stating “several males” were considered suspects.

At the apartment complex, students seemed shaken by what, traditionally, rarely occurs – acts of violence in Cullowhee. “I feel like I have to be more cautious now,” said Devarius Cortener, 19, from Nashville, Tennessee.

WCU junior and River Walk resident Max Proffitt, 20, of Hickory, described hearing “two loud noises.”

“The next thing I knew, there were ambulances and cops outside,” he said.

The shooting occurred three floors above where Micaelah Ashe, a 20-year-old WCU junior from Jackson County, keeps an apartment.

“It scares me that it’s so close,” she said. “We didn’t hear anything and didn’t know anything about it until the police came and asked us a bunch of questions.”

WCU spokesperson Bill Studenc said the safety of students “is our top priority.”

“We are distressed at the news that a member of the university community was wounded in a shooting that occurred at an off-campus apartment complex last night,” he said.

“Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the student and his loved ones.”

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 586-8901.