Principal, student charged in BB pistol incident
Published 7:44 am Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Face misdemeanor charges for failing to report the incident
By CLAUD HODGES
Mattamuskeet High School Principal Randolph Latimore has been charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor for failing to report that a weapon had been found on property owned by the Hyde County school system.
A Mattamuskeet High School student, Maurice Meekins, 18, has been charged with possessing a weapon on school property.
A BB pistol was found on Sept. 28. The next morning, Latimore found out about the discovery, but he did not report it immediately to a law-enforcement agency as required by state law.
On Oct. 15, Latimore was served a warrant charging him with failing to report the weapon to law enforcement. The warrant was served by the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office. Meekins, who was 17 when the incident occurred, was served a warrant on Oct. 19.
Sheriff David Mason said he first learned of the incident when “a concerned citizen” called him the night of Oct. 1. In subsequent days, Mason explained, he met with schools Superintendent Gregory Todd. According to Mason, Todd told him that he thought school officials were following the Hyde County School Board’s policy concerning weapons on school system property.
Later, Mason reported the incident to District Attorney Seth Edwards.
Edwards, in an interview Monday, said the charge could bring a maximum 20-day jail term for Latimore. If Latimore has no criminal record, according to Edwards, a judge most likely would impose a minimum penalty, probably suspended probation.
Meekins faces a class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, Meekins faces a maximum of 120 days in jail. Edwards said Meekins probably will not receive the maximum sentence because he does not have a criminal record.
Meekins could not be reached for comment.
Edwards distinguished a weapon from a firearm by saying the term “weapon” usually refers to a BB pistol or a knife and the term “firearm” usually refers to a gun. Having a weapon on school property can result in a misdemeanor charge, but having a firearm on school property can result in a felony charge, he said.
Edwards declined to provide details about the incident in Hyde County. Edwards said he is concerned because of the number of similar incidences that have occurred nationwide recently.
The Hyde County Board of Education has retained attorney Richard Schwartz of Raleigh to represent Latimore.
The weapon had not been used “for any purpose whatsoever,” Schwartz said. He said Latimore reported the incident to his superiors in an appropriate manner.
Schwartz said it is “a shame” for an educator with such “a stellar career” to have something like this happen.