Tip helps avert tragedy at area school

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Nash County Deputy Stan Ricks, center, holds Nash County K-9 officer Pebbles as M.B. Hubbard Elementary School first-grader Nizaiah Cherry, 7, pets the 12-week-old bloodhound on Thursday during a visit to the school. Pebbles' visit to the school was part of her socialization training.


Staff Writer

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A mentally-ill teenager threatens to take a gun to school and aim it at a school resource officer as part of a planned suicide attempt.

This scenario did not happen in Florida, where on Wednesday, a teenage gunman who is reportedly mentally ill killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

It happened last week in Edgecombe County.

On Feb. 9, a student at SouthWest Edgecombe High School threatened to bring a gun to school, but that situation was prevented by the actions of Edgecombe County deputies.

“The situation last week was defused because a concerned citizen reached out to us and gave us the information on the incident,”” Detective Lt. E. W. Muse Jr. of the criminal investigations division of the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office told the Telegram. “The involved student was taken to the hospital to be committed for mental health treatment.”

In a Facebook post last week, Muse said that the student was planning to bring the weapon to campus in order to draw fire upon himself.

“The investigation revealed that the juvenile student planned to bring a BB gun to school. The student did not threaten violence on students or staff. Rather, he said that he wanted to point the gun at the school resource officer so that he would be shot,” Muse said in the post on the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “Deputies carried the student to the magistrate’s office, where involuntary commitment papers were issued and served. He was transported for mental health treatment. He was suspended from school for the rest of the year.”

Muse assured the public that the plan was never to harm students,

“In our case, there was no threat of violence and no weapon was ever brought on campus — only a threat to bring a weapon to campus. No charges were filed as no laws were broken. We caught it soon enough,” Muse told the Telegram.

However, the situation illustrates the need for community vigilance and the cooperation between schools and law enforcement agencies to defuse volatile situations before they end in tragedy.

“Moving forward, when people are suspicious of people’s actions or perceive a threat, they need to reach out to us so we can investigate and prevent violence,” Muse said. “Certainly, anytime there is a threat made, we need to be made aware.”

Dr. Shelton Jefferies, superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, said the school district is doing everything it can to prevent tragedies such as the one in Florida from occurring here.

"Our top priority at Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools is the safety of our students and staff,” Jefferies said. “We regularly practice safety drills to ensure our students are prepared in the event of an emergency. We are grateful for the continued partnership with our local law enforcement agencies as they are vital in helping to ensure the well-being of our students and staff."

Deputy Stan Ricks of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office was in several schools Thursday in Nash County connecting with students in an effort to make them feel safer and to see law enforcement officers as a resource rather than an enemy. Ricks brought his 12 -week old K-9 partner Pebbles, Nash County’s newest K-9 recruit, to visit kindergarten to third-grade students at M.B. Hubbard Elementary School, Faith Christian School and New Life Christian Academy.

“This opportunity offered us a chance to connect with the kids so that Pebbles could get training in socialization and the students could learn more about what we do,” Ricks said.