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Griffin Weathers died on an operating room table at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem in 2018 after being shot in High Point.

EDITOR’S NOTE: From 2017 to 2019, 14.1%% of shootings in High Point were fatal, according to data obtained in a public records request. In Greensboro and Durham, the only other two cities to respond to public records requests for this story, 9.8% of shootings in the same time period were deadly. What accounts for the difference? It may be because of the state’s 15 most populous cities, High Point, the ninth largest, is the only one without a trauma center. First in a three-part series.

HIGH POINT

A teenager with an independent streak that bordered on rebellious, Griffin Weathers was tall, dark-haired, fit and popular in school. Like most 17-year-old boys, he thought he was practically invincible.

Gina Weathers said that in early 2018 Griffin was turning a corner as a young person. A senior in high school, he had been accepted into High Point University, where Gina worked in the admissions office.

On April 9, 2018, Griffin was getting ready to go to the gym with a friend; his mom had just come home from work. Gina Weathers remembered being annoyed Griffin had left the kitchen sink full of shaker bottles from his protein shakes. He asked if he could wash them later, because he was running late for the gym.

She agreed. Griffin gave her a hug and kiss, telling her, “I love you, Mom,” before leaving the house.

Instead of going to the gym, Griffin Weathers drove to an apartment complex on the north side of High Point to sell another teen, Tylar Harris, a small amount of marijuana. Harris, then 16 years old, pulled a gun on Weathers to rob him, according to police records.

There was a struggle, and the gun went off. Harris shot Griffin Weathers in the right side of his chest, according to Weathers’ medical records. Someone at the apartment complex heard the shooting and called 911; an ambulance arrived about 9:10 p.m., according to a local news report.

The paramedics originally decided Weathers should go to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, an approximately 22-minute drive. Weathers was alert and talking when the ambulance arrived, according to his medical records.

But then Weathers’s blood pressure dropped, and the paramedics changed their minds. They decided to go to High Point Medical Center, 10 minutes away, where doctors and nurses could try to stabilize him.

When Weathers arrived at the High Point emergency department at 9:39 p.m. he was still awake but told nurses and doctors he couldn’t feel his legs. Within three minutes of his arrival he began receiving a blood transfusion. Four minutes later they stuck a breathing tube down his throat. At 9:50 p.m., a doctor at High Point called Baptist and asked if Weathers could be transferred there for surgery.

Before being flown out, Weathers was seen by a High Point surgeon, who determined that the hospital wouldn’t be able to operate on him in a timely manner anyway, according to Weathers’ medical records.

There was trouble getting Weathers ready for transfer. His blood pressure would not stabilize — he had been receiving blood transfusions since arriving in the emergency room — and it wasn’t until 10:45 p.m. that the flight crew felt comfortable enough to load him in the helicopter and fly to Winston-Salem.

By the time the helicopter landed at 11:05 p.m., the Weathers family was standing in the Baptist emergency department waiting room. A flight nurse told the family Griffin had received more blood transfusions in the helicopter.

He was rushed into surgery but had lost too much blood. The bullet damaged his aorta, liver and pancreas.

Almost two-and-a-half hours after getting shot in an apartment complex parking lot 22 minutes away, Griffin Weathers died on the operating room table.

Tuesday: Researchers have linked physical distance from trauma centers with an increase in mortality from gunshot wounds.

Lee Sanderlin is an investigative reporting fellow at the Columbia University School of Journalism’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. He previously worked as a reporter for The Enterprise.