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R-CH staff overwhelmed following fatal shooting

AHOSKIE – Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, like most medical facilities, is typically a busy place.

Business picked-up there early Saturday morning, but not in the normal sense.

R-CH officials are praising the efforts of their staff as well as extending a community-wide expression of appreciation to local law enforcement officers who responded and assisted the hospital’s emergency department in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 15.

It was the R-CH Emergency Department that received the victim of a shooting that occurred on Catherine Street sometimes after 1 a.m. That victim, 19-year-old Ivan Jerome Coulton of Ahoskie, died at 6:51 a.m. Saturday after being transported to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

However, prior to being transported to Greenville, the R-CH staff were overwhelmed by a large crowd that gathered on the hospital’s property.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh confirmed a disturbance developed at R-CH after the victim had been admitted to the Emergency Department. Allegedly, damage occurred to the hospital’s property.

In an effort to control the large throng of people, many of whom had crowded into the R-CH Emergency Department’s waiting room, hospital officials summoned the help of additional staff, including members of the ECH (Eastern Carolina Hospital) Police Department. The hospital staff and police also placed a call for assistance from local law enforcement agencies.

“Thank you for your rapid and tremendous response to a very difficult situation,” said Nettie Evans, Vice President for Patient Care Services at RCH, as she publically addressed those who came to the hospital’s assistance. “The teamwork displayed among local and neighboring law enforcement and EMS contributed greatly to the safety of the RCH staff, patients, visitors and surrounding community.”

While it’s now business as usual at R-CH, the Ahoskie Police Department remains busy in an effort to identify the person responsible for Coulton’s death. Fitzhugh asked those with information on the fatal shooting to contact either Lt. Jeremy Roberts or Sgt. Stephen White at 332-5012 or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 332-4066. All information is kept confidential.

He added that the results are pending from a Tuesday autopsy performed in Greenville.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family has moved forward with funeral arrangements. That service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 23 at Hertford County High School. Burial will be in Newsome Grove Church Cemetery.

Coulton’s obituary can be found on page 6A of today’s edition.

Coulton was a student-athlete at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro where he had just completed his freshman year. The former Hertford County High School football player had signed a scholarship in February of last year to play with the Aggies, but was not on the 2009 roster.

APD officers found Coulton lying on Catherine Street shortly past 1 a.m.

Fitzhugh said a call was placed to the APD after midnight concerning a disturbance at BJ’s, a nightclub located in the 200 block of East Main Street. APD officers were dispatched to the scene, where Fitzhugh said they found a large and unruly crowd and shut the club down at 12:50 a.m. due to safety concerns.

He added that upon shutting the club down, officers then responded to a large crowd on First and Maple streets. “Next, my officers responded to a fight and gun shots being fired on Catherine Street,” Fitzhugh reported. “An officer with the Ahoskie PD on foot ran to the gun shot call. There was a large crowd. Once the officer located the victim, the officer called for police and medical assistance.”

But there was another problem awaiting the emergency responders.

“The crowd returned to the scene of the incident and prevented the officers from doing their jobs by crowding the victim,” Fitzhugh said. “Officers had to literally remove people to protect the victim and preserve evidence.”

Personal from numerous law enforcement agencies rushed to Ahoskie to assist in the aftermath of the shooting. Some were diverted to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital to assist with crowd control there.

Other than the Ahoskie Police Department, Hertford County, Bertie County and Gates County sheriff’s offices, the Murfreesboro Police Department and the North Carolina Highway Patrol sent personnel to Ahoskie to assist in the case.