School Shooting Morphs Into A Law Enforcement Convention

September 1, 2021, was a terrible day in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. Just after 12 noon, a gunman at Mount Tabor High School in the western part of the city took the life of William Chavis Raynard Miller, Jr. Mount Tabor was immediately locked down, as were some other schools in the district. Alerts were sent out from the WS/FC Schools to parents. Anxious students texted back and forth with their equally anxious parents.

Despite the presence of two school resource officers at Tabor, when the shooting occurred, the gunman was not immediately apprehended. And despite the presence of a small battalion of law enforcement officers that quickly rushed to the high school, the gunman was on the loose for approximately six hours.

I do not wish to make light of today’s tragic shooting or use it for political gain. But the sheer number of law enforcement officers, equipment, and military weaponry on display Wednesday at Mount Tabor was jaw-dropping. In addition to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department and Winston-Salem Police Department, the FBI, DEA, the ATF, Homeland Security, the highway patrol, Probation Parole (?), and ABC* were all present at Mount Tabor High School, according to Sheriff Kimbrough. If that wasn’t enough, law enforcement officers from surrounding cities and counties also came to Winston to aid in the manhunt. In the end, it was the US Marshals that apprehended the suspect.

The public didn’t get to see much of the massive posse that formed at Mount Tabor. Local media were “asked” to move from Tabor’s parking lot, off-campus, to a side street in front of the school. So the local media were unable to take photos or video of the police encampment or students evacuating the building.

Students and teachers posted first-hand accounts and images on social media while local officials held a press conference late Wednesday afternoon at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Each speaker at the press conference praised law enforcement. A certain amount of that sort of thing can be overlooked, given the circumstances. But the blue-line accolades expressed by District Attorney Jim O’Neill were way over the line. Beyond informative, his speech at the Sheriff’s Office was overtly political. Jim O’Neill seemed to be practicing for his next run at statewide office. Republican Jim O’Neill was the keynote speaker at today’s blue-line convention.

Unfortunately, the bad guy won today. One young man took another young man’s life in a senseless act of violence. Jim O’Neill’s rhetoric can’t bring a young man’s life back. The presence of two officers at Mount Tabor didn’t stop the gunman from taking William Chavis Raynard Miller’s life. And despite the DA’s assurances, there is no guarantee that another school shooting won’t happen again in Forsyth County. Unless major changes are made in our rotting republic, sadly, shoot shootings are going to continue.

We don’t need more “law and order” policies. Militarized police forces, like the one that gathered Wednesday at Mount Tabor, can’t stop gun violence. We need investments in education, health care, gang prevention, violence interrupters, and social services to address gun violence in this country.

 


Here’s Forsyth County DA, Jim O’Neill’s speech in its entirety:

“As a father of children that attend our public schools, I can tell you that I empathize with all the families out there in Forsyth County. When we heard this terrible news today, it was like a punch in your stomach. And it takes your breath away, not knowing if your children are safe if your friend’s children are safe, if your neighbor’s children are safe. You are in agony until you figure out what’s happening and what is going on. And we think about the danger that was present at Mount Tabor this afternoon.

And I was getting calls from folks who had children that were in Mount Tabor High School who were hiding under the desks in fear and not knowing what was going on. Again, as a parent and as the District Attorney here, there is really no worse feeling you can imagine. And among the danger and chaos that was going on at Mount Tabor this afternoon. What you saw were the heroes in our community. Law enforcement, the men and women in blue, in black, and gray [FCSD wear brown] that don’t know what to expect, but they run in to try and protect us, our children, and our
family.

No greater love hath one for another than to lay down their life for someone else. So to my law enforcement brothers and sisters, colleagues, I thank you so much for what you did today, for what you do every day when you get up out of bed and kiss your loved ones goodbye. Not knowing if you are going to see them again. Thank you, law enforcement, for what you did today to keep all the other children there safe.

Finally, I would like to say that without commenting on the facts, in this particular case, my office takes [a] zero-tolerance policy as it relates to violence being committed at our schools, one student upon another. When each of us, including myself, sends our kids back to school in the morning. We want to know and believe that they are safe. And law enforcement completes that task when they put their case together. This will be treated as we treat all other crimes committed at schools, with a zero-tolerance on violence at any of our schools. And that is my pledge to this community.

Say prayers for the young man who passed away today and his family. Say prayers for them. But I also ask you to say prayers that we continue to have people in law enforcement that put a badge on and a bulletproof vest on every single day and go to work and put themselves in harm’s way so that we, all of us to can be protected. Thank you, and God bless law enforcement.”

-Forsyth County DA, Jim O’Neill campaigning at a press conference.

 

“Chief, you never have to apologize for giving out the facts. Certainly, this is a sad day for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. But, moreover, it’s a sad day for the city of Winston-Salem [and] the county of Forsyth, as we experienced something we have seen on TV across the country, but we have been so fortunate here we have not experienced that. But today, we are facing it head-on with the death of a student from Mount Tabor High School. On behalf of all the citizens, I thank the police department, the highway patrol, [and] the sheriff’s department who has taken the lead on this, as well as other partners for coming together quickly to secure the school and to work on solving the issue. Our citizens offer our condolences and our thoughts and prayers to the family of the student who passed away today. We know it’s going to be difficult for them going forward. But, again, we are so sad that this happened in our city. We are thankful for the work of our law enforcement going forward.”
-Mayor Allen Joines, giving a generic but appropriate speech for the occasion.

*the last two agencies Kimbrough mentioned at his 9/1 press conference were barely audible.

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