Suspect arrested in 14-year-old girl’s fatal shooting outside NC business, police say

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A teenager suspected of shooting and killing a 14-year-old girl outside a Gaston County business is in custody, police said Wednesday.

Gastonia police say Santonio Azanier Eskridge, 19, is responsible in the shooting death of Nivia Danner on Tuesday. He is charged with second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by felon, police said in a statement.

Around 1:18 p.m. Tuesday, police responded to a call about a medical emergency from a business in the 300 block of North Chester Street. When officers arrived, they found Nivia with a gunshot wound in the parking lot of the business. She later died at a nearby hospital, police said.

Nivia had arrived at the business in a vehicle that Eskridge was driving, police said. The vehicle belonged to an associated of her family, police told the Observer.

While the vehicle was parked in front of the business, Eskridge shot Nivia for an unknown reason, police said.

Eskridge then fled the scene in the vehicle, police said. Later that evening, police found the vehicle abandoned in Cleveland County.

‘A place of unavoidable trauma’

The owners of Rodgers Bail Bonding, where Nivia was shot, said on its Facebook page that the shooting has made their “family-run business a crime scene and a place of unavoidable trauma.”

“On September 14, 2021, tragically a young girl’s life was taken from her in a violent killing at our family-owned business,” the Facebook post said. “Our hearts go out to all of her loved ones and everyone she touched in this community. The perpetrator not only took the life of this young girl, but they have traumatized the loved ones she came here with.”

In the post, owner Mekoh Rodgers asked “that people really stop and think about how many lives are irreparably damaged by the permanent taking of someone’s life.”

“We remain committed to our investment in the Gastonia community and ask that you keep the family and our community lifted up in prayer,” Rodgers said.

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Ministers at Destiny Church in Gastonia said Nivia was a part of the youth ministry and loved to sing, WBTV, the Observer’s news partner, reported.

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of one of our very own youth members,” David Tucker, a senior pastor at the church, told WBTV. “Nivia was a joyful young lady who had the biggest smile.”

In a Facebook post, the church said Nivia “was a precious young lady who will be greatly missed.”

“May we remember that we aren’t promised tomorrow, while being comforted in knowing that God is near to those who have a broken heart,” the Facebook post said.

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Police ask anyone with information regarding this case to call the Gastonia Police Department’s non-emergency number at 704-866-6702, or anonymously leave a tip by calling Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at 704-861-8000.

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