By Donna King
The shooting death of a student at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem this week brought local and state leaders together Thursday in mourning and to recognize the heroism of local police and faculty. Gov. Roy Cooper traveled to Winston Salem for the news conference and took the opportunity to call for more school spending on “wraparound services” and more gun control measures.
The news conference follows a shooting at Mount Tabor High School on Wednesday, as one student allegedly opened fire on another student. Police have identified the victim as William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr. Miller was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
“First, we need to make sure we keep guns off of school grounds and we need to take steps to make sure that happens,” Cooper said.
It’s already illegal to bring a gun onto a high school campus in North Carolina.
“We have to make more investments in our children in early childhood education, we need to make sure they have wrap-around mental health services, we have to make sure they are engaged in our community,” Cooper said. “When you look at these budget negotiations, full funding of a sound basic education can help provide some of these services that I believe can help is not only reduce violence in our schools, but also violence in our communities.”
The school was on lockdown Wednesday afternoon while parents gathered in a nearby shopping center parking lot to comfort each other and wait to be reunited with their children. The alleged gunman was at large for several hours but was reported in custody by 7 p.m. Wednesday evening. The school was closed Thursday.
“We saw a lot of heroes yesterday,” said Jim O’Neill, Forsyth County district attorney, in a news conference Thursday, Sept. 2. “To my brothers and sisters out there in the law enforcement community, thank you. The whole community thanks you for what you did yesterday to keep us safe.”
Winston-Salem police Chief Catrina Thompson addressed the students of Mount Tabor High School.
“What you experienced yesterday no one should ever experience in their lives,” she said tearfully. “I can only imagine how traumatic that experience must have been, and I want you to know that it is OK, not to be OK today.”
Law enforcement officials weren’t able to answer specific questions about the shooting, the suspect, or the investigation. O’Neill said violence like this demonstrates the need for more after-school programs to keep kids busy and out of trouble.
“A lot of families have two working parents with no one to keep an eye on the kids after school,” he said. “If kids are approached by gangs in fourth or fifth grade, we’ve probably lost them for good.”
“Idle hands are going to be the devil’s workshop from now until the end of time,” he said.
The shooting is the second at a N.C. high school this week. Monday, police were called to New Hanover High School in Wilmington for reports of a fight, but one student sustained non-life-threatening injuries from a gunshot wound. A 15-year-old student was charged in that incident.
“In general, our public schools are very safe places for children this kind of incident does not usually happen, it’s horrible, it’s one of the reasons why I’m here, why we have all gathered together as a community with resolve,” Cooper told reporters. “It’s important to support our public schools, support our educators, and let our parents know that we want them in the classroom and we want to do it safely.”
For Winston Salem, Miller’s death brings prayers to the community.
“We have a mother and family who will not be able to hug their child tonight,” said Thompson.