There was an incident at the High School yesterday involving racial slurs and a threat to African American students. I try to show us at our best, but there was nothing pretty about the language used and the threats made. They were ugly.
The news media who reported on the story (and thank you to Channel 5 for not doing so) had limited information and did what they could to sensationalize both the incident and a lack of immediate information coming from the Division of Police.
As ugly as the incident was, this is another situation where the system worked as it was supposed to. The School District was quick to action and cooperated completely. Our School Resource Officer was on scene and used his relationship with the students to quickly ascertain what was happening and he made good decisions, quickly, and productively to end the situation. A juvenile was arrested, charged with a felony, and our detectives spent much of the rest of the day working the case.
As your former Prosecutor, I can tell you that MPD reacted quickly and correctly in this case. The first step is to assess the situation and neutralize any immediate threat. An arrest was made quickly. Second, they immediately started the investigation to ascertain if there were other people involved and whether there was an additional threat out there. After extensive investigation, the juvenile was found to be acting alone. As that phase comes to a close, the investigation turns to collecting evidence and statements to be used in the felony prosecution. At no time during the initial investigation will MPD make statements about what they are doing or why. It inhibits the ability to gather evidence and unbiased statements of what happened. It’s important to let the professionals do what they do best.
The School District sent out limited information last night about the incident. As we are now concluding our immediate investigation, we will be adding to that information later today.
The Journal story quotes two anonymous parents who are concerned. Everyone should be concerned when these things happen. We are. You should be too. That being said, Chief Muterspaw and I have spent the last year reaching out to the African American community, the Latino community and the clergy in town to build open lines of communication and understanding throughout the community. Crime and calls for service are down throughout the city.
I suppose there will always be haters and racists. Let’s meet them with education, understanding and love. My hope for the juvenile arrested is that the community can show this young person a better way to live life and approach relationships. It would be a true shame if this young person learned nothing from the incident. We have the opportunity and a responsibility to show our youth a better way to approach life.
I can always find anonymous sources to state what I want to hear. When people feel comfortable putting their name with their statements, we start to make progress.
This was an ugly, isolated incident. Let’s talk about it and learn from it, but let’s not give too much of our energy to promoting hate and the people who spew it. We are a better and stronger community than that.