Erring on the correct side of caution

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 2, 2007

It’s been more than two months since Seung-Hui Cho quietly walked the campus of Virginia Tech, applied chains to lock doors behind him and gunned down 30 other people and before killing himself inside a school building.

It’s a painful lesson that won’t soon be forgotten, of how one angry or disturbed person can do so much damage to so many.

Late last week, this area was reminded of how the actions of one can affect so many.

On a popular Internet site,, a 16-year-old Branchville boy threatened to kill another boy. According to police, the threat was &uot;area-specific,&uot; meaning the location of the proposed attack was known to be at or near Barrett’s Landing in Franklin.

With that kind of detailed information, police made the proper move by canceling that night’s installation of &uot;We Be Jammin,’&uot; normally held on Thursday nights at the park that overlooks the Blackwater River.

There’s no question the police made the right call to cancel that night’s event.

&uot;The issue of public safety is first and foremost for both the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Franklin,&uot; stated a joint press release from the two police agencies. &uot;The cancellation of the ‘We Be Jammin” was done as a preventive measure in light of past events relating to violence.&uot;

&uot;We did what were advised to do,&uot; said Jack Novell, president of the Downtown Franklin Association, which produces the weekly event. &uot;We cancelled because … we were concerned about the safety of the people.&uot;

The boy was arrested at his home and was released to his parents pending trial.

The day after the event was postponed, Pam Ellis, vice president of the association, also alluded to the lone shooter at Virginia Tech.

&uot;We didn’t want another Virginia Tech,&uot; she said, without prompting.

But the situation was eerily familiar: One young man, motivated to consider evil for whatever reason, opens fire on, or otherwise attacks, a group of people assembled in tight quarters.

In situations involving a juvenile, official police reports are intentionally vague, and officers know more details than they make public, but they knew enough to take the threat seriously and take the appropriate action.