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Leaders Offer Compassion, Few Answers After School Shooting

High School Shooting-North Carolina
Skip Foreman
Anxious parents stand in the parking lot of a shopping center in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. One student was killed in a shooting at a North Carolina high school Wednesday and authorities were looking for the suspect, officials said.

State and local leaders offered encouragement and compassion Thursday to students and the mother of a high school boy fatally shot on campus the day before, but released no new details about the suspect, including whether he knew the victim or attended the school.

"This is a pain and a fear that no child or parent should ever have to confront, simply by having a child go to school," Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference that began moments after he spoke with the family of William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr., the victim of the shooting at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem on Wednesday.

What you experienced yesterday at Mount Tabor, no one should ever experience at all, ever, in their lives. 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.
Catrina Thompson

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office announced on its Twitter page that the suspect, who was not identified, was apprehended Wednesday evening. District Attorney Jim O'Neill provided no additional information at Thursday's news conference, such as whether the suspect and the victim knew each other, whether the gun used in the shooting had been recovered or if criminal charges had been filed against the suspect. The suspect was believed to have been a student at the high school, but O'Neill wouldn't confirm it.

The district attorney also referred to the influence of gangs on young people and how there was a need for more after-school programs and volunteer workers to lure teenagers away from violent behavior. He didn't say whether the shooting was related to gang activity, however.

On Thursday, the school remained closed and counseling services were being provided at an off-site location.

Students gathered at a nearby parking lot to support each other as they tried to make sense of what happened earlier this week.

"I don't know how to describe it. It just feels surreal," said Mount Tabor Junior Conner Inman. "Like I always see stuff on the news about school shootings. Never thought it'd happen to one of us, but here we are. 8th day in to school and we had an incident like this."

Added Junior Luke Armentrout: "It just feels really strange, like you can just feel something in the air. Everything's changed. In that hour everything changed."

The community will come together Thursday night during a prayer vigil that will take place in front of Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem.

Cooper also said steps need to be taken to keep guns away from school campuses. Installing metal detectors in high schools is a "pretty dramatic step" but "you cannot take it off the table," he said.

"You have to be ready to use any tool that you have to make sure that schools are safe," the governor said.

Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. said he cried with Miller's mother after the shooting, and he brought a message from her to the news conference to be delivered to parents.

"She said to tell the mothers to tell their babies to put the guns down because it's senseless," Kimbrough said.

Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson, visibly moved on Wednesday when she announced that Miller had died as a result of the shooting, had her own message for students.

"What you experienced yesterday at Mount Tabor, no one should ever experience at all, ever, in their lives," Thompson 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."

The chief said officials will provide all the services needed, included therapists, to help students get through the experience. She also encouraged parents to pay attention to their children and seek help for them if they need it.

Mount Tabor, with an enrollment of more than 1,500 students, canceled classes on Thursday and will be closed again Friday, officials announced.

The school shooting was the second in the state this week. A student was shot and wounded during a fight Monday at a Wilmington high school. A 15-year-old was charged.

Naomi Prioleau joined WUNC in January 2017.
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