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Man charged with shooting, killing 7-year-old boy in Hickory, police say

Douglas Mason Wilson is charged with first degree murder just a day after announcing the death of Zakylen Harris.

HICKORY, N.C. — A day after announcing a 7-year-old boy was shot and killed while sitting in his mother’s car in Hickory, police say they’ve arrested a man in connection with the boy's death.

Hickory police say 23-year-old Douglas Mason Wilson of Claremont is now charged with murder and in custody. Online jail records also indicate he was charged for possession of marijuana.

We first learned details about the deadly shooting early Thursday morning. According to police, the Catawba County 911 Center received a call about a shooting in the 1900 block of Tate Boulevard Southeast a few minutes after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21 for shots fired into a car.

When officers got to the area, they found a 7-year-old boy who had been shot in the neck. The boy was rushed to Catawba Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. He was later identified as Zakylen Greylen Harris.

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Police said Zakylen 's mother and two other children, ages 6 and 1, were in the car at the time of the shooting.

In a news conference held Thursday, investigators said they were looking for a small, dark-colored SUV that was traveling eastbound on Tate Boulevard Southeast. According to police, Zakylen's mother heard a female yelling from the other car before shots were fired. The suspect car, which had approached from behind the family's car, then took off east on the boulevard. Police believe there may have been multiple people inside the SUV with a woman in the front seat at the time of the shooting.

When asked if the incident possibly involved road rage during a news conference Thursday, Hickory PD said they were exploring all options. They showed a local traffic camera from Tate Boulevard and 15th Street, showing the suspect car pulling up behind the victim's car after the victim's car turned right onto Tate Boulevard. Zakylen's mother had signaled to turn right onto another street when the suspect car pulled around her vehicle.

Police say she told them she thinks the shooter, now identified as Wilson, reached around the woman in the front passenger seat and fired out of the passenger window. Police also indicated she told them the shooting happened quickly after the other woman yelled at them, and the shooting appeared to be a random incident.

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Police chief Thurman Whisnant on Thursday decried the shooting as a "senseless act of violence" and said there was someone out there who knew what happened. He promised his department was working to help Zakylen's family find justice.

"The men and women of the Hickory Police Department will act tirelessly to see that justice is brought to the coward that did this. That’s how I feel about it," he said.

In a brief update Friday, Whisnant said information given to them along with their own investigation led to Wilson's arrest. He stressed the investigation was ongoing and asked for privacy for Zakylen's family. He declined to take questions, saying his officers needed to get right back to work in the case.

“The path towards justice is a long one," Whisnant said Friday. "And there’s a lot of work still to be done in this case, and a lot of questions that still have to be answered.”

Any person with information about this shooting or any other incident is asked to call Hickory Police at 828-328-5551. 

Late in the morning on Thursday, Hickory Public Schools confirmed Zakylen was a student at Southwest Primary School. They offered this statement to WCNC Charlotte:

The young student who was killed last night was a 2nd grade student at Southwest Primary. We have approximately a dozen counselors at the school helping his classmates and our Employee Assistance Program has counselors on site to help staff members. 

We are tremendously saddened to learn of the loss of this innocent life. There's nothing more tragic than the loss of a child. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the child's family and the Southwest team. Our hearts are broken.

We spoke with Beverly Snowden, the director of communications for the district. She became emotional discussing little Zakylen's passing.

"We especially love our students," she said as she teared up. "It's very hard to lose a child. I can't imagine." 

Southwest Primary School had two other students die in February when a Hickory mobile home caught fire. For Snowden, she thought about the students learning that they lost another friend.

"Hearing that their classmate, their friend, their buddy, their playmate has been shot and killed?" she questioned. "It's just absolutely horrifying. I think we were all in shock. We just can't believe another innocent life has been lost."

Contact Tanya Mendis at tmendis@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

RELATED: Two children have died after a mobile home fire in Hickory

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In an unrelated incident, another child was killed last week in a Gastonia shooting.

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