Gov. Roy Cooper traveled to Winston-Salem on Thursday to comfort the Mt. Tabor High School community a day after a deadly school shooting.
One student, identified as William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr., died after being shot at school, A second youth, also believed to be a student, has been taken into custody and is a suspect in the shooting.
Cooper told students, parents, and educators that the pain and fear caused by gun violence is something they should never have to experience.
“School is a place of learning and growth,” Cooper said. “We have to do everything we can to keep them be free of threats and violence,” the governor said.
The shooting at Mt. Tabor was the second this week at a North Carolina high school. The other took place in Wilmington, where one student was shot Monday at New Hanover High School.
A 15-year-old student has been arrested in that incident and is facing an attempted murder charge. The shooting reportedly followed a fight Monday. The victim suffered non-threating injuries, according to media reports.
According to the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Consolidated Data Report for the 2019-20 school year, there were 83 reported possessions of firearms or powerful explosives during a school year cut short several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year before, there were 124 such incidents.
Cooper commended law enforcement officers for quickly responding to the incident. He said their efforts Wednesday is the result of years of hard work and planning.
“This is a painful time, and it is a time for us to come together to comfort each other, but 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, train school resource officers, making sure that there are more mental health and treatment [options] for students, investing in educators and keeping guns out of school,” Cooper said.
The shooting at Mt. Tabor comes two months after Cooper vetoed a bill that would have allowed people to carry firearms in churches that share the property with private schools.
“For the safety of students and teachers, North Carolina should keep guns off school grounds,” Cooper said in a statement announcing the veto.
State law doesn’t allow members of the public to carry guns on educational property. Supporters of the bill argued that people attending places of worship should have the right to defend themselves if attacked.
On Wednesday, the governor was joined by a teary-eyed group of law enforcement officials and elected officials during a late morning press conference held to discuss the shooting incident, which quickly became a national news story.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough Jr., said the community will not allow fear to stop it from moving forward.
Kimbrough spoke with the mother of the student killed and was asked to relay a message to mothers.
“Yesterday, she told me to say his name, and I said his name,” Kimbrough said. “Today, she said ‘Kimbrough, tell them mothers to love on their babies because I didn’t get a chance to tell my baby I love him. And tell them mothers to tell their babies to put the guns down, because it’s senseless,’ ”
Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson said grief counselors would be available for students struggling to come to grips with Wednesday’s shooting.
Thompson also shared this poignant message:
“What you experienced yesterday at Mt. Tabor, no one should ever have to experience at all, ever in their lives,” Thompson said, struggling to hold back tears. “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.”