Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Governor Cooper addresses back-to-back school shootings this week

Governor Roy Cooper visited the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning after a Mt. Tabor High School student was shot and killed on campus Wednesday. It was the second school shooting this week, after a New Hanover High School student was shot and injured by a fellow student on campus Monday. Both suspects are in custody. 

“Our hearts go out to all parents, not only in this community but across our state who have children in school who are experiencing the concern, the fear, the anger that this kind of incident brings,” Cooper said at the press conference. 

The governor thanked law enforcement officers, educators, and parents who had to endure the tragic event.

“It’s a time for us to collect our resolve and to do everything we can to redouble our efforts to keep our schools safe,” he said. 

More funds are needed to train school resource officers, increase mental health resources for students, invest in educators, and keep guns out of school.

City of Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson addressed students directly: “What you experienced yesterday at Mt. Tabor, no one should ever experience at all, ever, in their lives,” she said. “I can only imagine how traumatic that experience could have been. And I want you to know that it is OK not to be OK today.”

Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough delivered a message from the victim’s mother. “Today she said, ‘Kimbrough, tell them mothers to love on their babies. Because I didn’t get a chance to tell my baby I loved him.’ She said, ‘And tell them mothers to tell their babies to put the guns down. Because it’s senseless.’”

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill would not reveal any details about the case, including the suspect’s identity, whether they were a student, or whether charges had been filed. He cited the need to protect the integrity of the prosecution in declining to disclose details. (That’s in contrast to the handling of the New Hanover shooting, in which Sheriff Ed McMahon shared the 15-year-old suspect’s name in a news conference and through the office’s social media channels, only to recant the disclosure the following day. Also, District Attorney Ben David shared the host of charges the suspect had been given, including attempted first-degree murder.)

“We need more opportunities for kids after school so children have options after school is over,” he said. “A lot of two-parent working homes out here. And there’s no one back there watching the child in 6th and 7th grade when gangs can very easily persuade a child in 6th or 7th grade to come follow their lead. 

“If a child enters a gang in 6th or 7th grade, we’ve lost them, folks. We’ve lost them.”

The district attorney spoke of the need for more afterschool programs to combat a pervasive issue. “We need things for our children to do after school that are positive and productive. Idle hands are going to be the devil’s workshop from now until the end of time.”

Despite his commentary on gangs, O’Neill did not clarify whether the suspect was involved in a gang. 

Asked whether school shooting drills were important in light of this week’s events, Cooper said the procedures prove preparation helps when a crisis hits. “We’ve got to work harder on prevention,” he said. “We have to guarantee that our schools are safe.”

“We do need to make more investments in our children in early childhood education,” the governor said. “We need to make sure they have wraparound mental health services. We’ve got to make sure that they are engaged in our communities, making sure they have positive things to do.”

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