SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Gang activity was possibly to blame for a dangerous encounter in a Selma cemetery that's left a 13 year old boy in intensive care and another teenager behind bars.
The victim was shot after leaving a middle school football game.
Jimmy Davis says his nephew, Damian Hatcher, is a fighter. The 13-year-old is making some improvements in the hospital from a gunshot wound that nearly took his life.
"My nephew went to a football game and now he's in ICU. It's really sad," Davis said. "I couldn't believe it when I got the phone call about what happened. I had just left from over there, just talking to him."
Hatcher was walking home with a group of friends Tuesday night through Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma after watching R.B. Hutson and Tipton play at Memorial Stadium.
Selma Police Chief John Brock says a 14-year-old boy approached the group on a bike, pulled out a gun and fired, the bullet hitting an artery in Hatcher's leg.
Officers were dispatched to the shooting at King Street and Dallas Avenue around 8:30 p.m.
"This individual came up on a bicycle, an argument ensued, he made a couple of threats, pulled out a handgun and shot the victim in the leg. He lost a lot of blood," Chief Brock said. "This 14 year old is supposed to be into some type of gang, trying to recruit other gang members or younger people into this gang."
Detectives say the suspect made references to gangs when he was talking to the group.
After the shooting, the frightened friends ran towards Dallas Avenue and Damian Hatcher was picked up by a private vehicle and rushed to the hospital.
As he was being treated for his life-threatening injuries at Vaughn Medical Center's emergency room, officers spoke to witnesses who picked the suspect out of a photo lineup. Police say the 14-year-old had also been watching the football game Tuesday night.
"Investigators interviewed several of the witnesses, got an ID on the suspect. The kids that were with the victim identified him as the shooter," Chief Brock said.
As Hatcher was airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham for further treatment, Selma police arrested the alleged 14-year-old gunman at his home. He was questioned and charged with attempted murder.
He was then taken to the Juvenile Detention Center and had a detention hearing Wednesday in court. Because he is a juvenile, his identity was not released.
The Dallas County District Attorney's Office has filed a petition to have him tried as an adult.
District Attorney Michael Jackson says he will remain in the detention center until that request is resolved.
"If you do an adult crime, you need to do adult time. Some people might think that he's just a little 14-year-old but he's a 14-year-old with a gun out here shooting people," Jackson said. "We think at this time, this possibly might have something to do with gang initiation or gang recruitment where this 14-year-old had to prove himself so he picked out some innocent victim and shot him."
Damian Hatcher's family said he was still in the Intensive Care Unit at UAB Wednesday night as his doctors work to keep him stabilized. Loved ones remain at his bedside. He had one surgery and will require an additional procedure.
"He's strong. We appreciate the prayers, the thoughts, and the calls. We appreciate it all. We really do," his uncle said. "We're a praying family. That's the only thing we know to do is pray and trust in God."
Selma police indicated that more arrests are possible in the case.
"We found out some information about some other people who were the group of guys the shooter was with, one of them could possibly have fired shots too so we're investigating who saw what and who had guns," Chief Brock said.
The district attorney says children in elementary school and middle school are often targeted as potential recruits for street gangs. He discussed laws on the books in Alabama that come with serious punishments for someone who recruits a gang member.
"On one of the charges, you can get up to ten years, but on the other one, if you're over 19 and they're under 18, you could get life in prison. So some of these folks are going to have to be charged with these recruitment crimes," he explained.
He promised ongoing sweeps of Selma and the surrounding area in the coming weeks by a task force made up of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
"This is an ongoing problem we have here in Selma with this gang violence. The community has to tackle this problem," Jackson said. "That poor young man was trying to enjoy a football game and he's happy as he's leaving the game with his buddies. And to get shot like that, there's just no excuse for that. Enough is enough."
Chief Brock says combating violence takes the work of law enforcement, parents, schools and the entire community.
"We're seeing younger and younger kids, like this 14 year old, with a weapon. It's frustrating how these young kids are getting these weapons off the street," he added. "There were 10-15 people there, all kids. He could have easily hit somebody else. Only one shot was fired, but a handgun holds multiple rounds so he easily could have shot multiple times and multiple people."