‘It took me the longest time to realize it was real.’ Friends remember teen shot and killed at prom afterparty

Friends identified one of the victims as 16-year-old Haeleigh Stamper. They say she was full of positive energy and was always wearing a huge smile. (Source: WLOX)
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 11:41 AM CDT
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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX/Gray News) – Two high school students were killed and another four injured after gunfire erupted a house party after prom overnight Saturday in southern Mississippi.

Officers with the Bay St. Louis Police Department found several people suffering from gunshots wounds when they arrived at the house.

Witnesses told WLOX they saw the shooter just come into the home and started firing at people, and the crowd scattered.

Bay St. Louis police said the victims ranged in age from 15 to 18.

The Hancock County Coroner’s Office told authorities later Sunday morning that an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old both died from their injures after being treated at a New Orleans hospital.

Friends identified one of the victims as 16-year-old Haeleigh Stamper. They say she was full of positive energy and was always wearing a huge smile.

“It took me the longest time to realize it was real,” her friend Victoria Jones said. “Her mom kept telling me, ‘I’m sorry this happened,’ and I said, ‘You’ve got the wrong number. I’m sorry, this isn’t Haeleigh.’”

Jones and Gabrielle Bailey are still emotional after receiving the phone call letting the know their best friend Haeleigh died at Saturday’s prom afterparty. They both describe her as a unique and fun person to hang around when they first met.

“She was this spunky thing,” Jones said. “We were playing truth or dare, and she licked the bus seat. She did not back down from a single dare that day and had the whole back of the bus laughing, and that’s how she was her entire life.”

“I was new and was sitting by myself,” Bailey said. “She had walked up to me and asked if I wanted to play with her and invited me to go over and play with her friends on the swing set.”

They even remembered her love for pickles.

“Haeleigh was right next to me talking to me the whole time, cheering me up doing the random-est thing and bringing me pickles,” Jones added. “She loved pickles — anytime someone was sad, she would bring pickles.”

Bailey and Jones say Haeleigh always made sure to put a smile on their faces, whether it was at a sleepover or even in class. Now, the teens are trying to keep positive while making sure no one forgets their best friend.

Family identified the 18-year-old victim to WLOX as De’Arreis Smith. He had finished classes at Hancock High last year and was anticipating graduating this May. He loved music and was enrolling in the military.

Cameron Everest Brand, 19, was arrested on six charges of aggravated assault, which have since been upgraded to homicide.

Police identified Brand as the sole shooter through witness and victim statements. He was arrested at his Pass Christian home and was being held on no bond after the upgraded charges.

Authorities told WLOX Brand was previously arrested by Waveland police multiple times in 2022, including charges of domestic violence and carrying a concealed weapon.

Bay St. Louis Police Chief Toby Schwartz issued an update on the case Monday night, saying, “With this many victims and this many people involved, the investigation is not going to be fast, but we are working methodically and diligently.”

He also says his department is interviewing everyone at the party who is willing to come forward.