WHS student arrested in gun incident
Published 5:59 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2015
An incident that could have easily ended in tragedy, ended instead with the arrest of a 16-year-old Washington High School student Monday.
According to a press release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Monday, Evan Spencer, of 1604 W. Beargrass Road, Williamston, allegedly shot another student in the leg with an Airsoft BB gun during school hours. Another report later that evening indicated another student had also been shot — a report corroborated by the school’s video surveillance system, the release said.
While the incident resulted in Spencer’s arrest and the students shot by the BB gun were unharmed, with the abundance of school shootings the U.S. has seen over the past two decades, school and law enforcement officials are noticeably concerned.
“This incident could have turned into a tragedy. If the school resource officer or another law enforcement officer would have come upon the suspect during the incident, the officer would have had to use whatever force was necessary to stop the threat. Up to and including deadly force,” Sheriff Ernie Coleman wrote in the press release. “This young man made a bad mistake, a mistake that he could have paid for with his life.”
That the weapon was a BB gun, and not a more dangerous weapon, would have made little difference in how law enforcement would have responded during the incident.
“Even if it was not a real (gun), it looked real enough that someone would have reacted,” said Dr. Don Phipps, superintendent of Beaufort County Schools.
Phipps said BCS didn’t find out about the incident until well after school ended Monday, but the next day staff jumped to stay ahead of any erroneous information being circulated, sending out a call to students’ parents, teachers and staff of Washington High School on Tuesday night, then following up with a letter from WHS Principal Misty Walker on Wednesday.
“During our investigation, we learned that some students saw the weapon earlier in the school day, but did not notify anyone,” Walker wrote. “Please talk with your child about this situation and stress the importance of reporting anything that they see or hear that might threaten school safety to administrators immediately.”
Spencer was charged with possessing a weapon on school property, disorderly conduct and simple assault and was confined at the Beaufort County Detention Center under a $5,000 secured bond, said the BCSO release. Phipps said he was unable to comment on any disciplinary action WHS has taken regarding Spencer.
The BB gun was later recovered by the Washington Police Department in a completely separate incident: a loss-prevention officer at Wal-Mart in Washington saw a juvenile in the store with the gun and told him it was not allowed inside the building. Washington Police officers, called to the location for a shoplifting incident, later found the BB gun abandoned atop the Blue Rhino gas tank outside the store, according to WPD officials.