Late last week a familiar national tragedy played out in Santa Fe, Texas, where a teenager, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, went to his high school armed with a shotgun and a pistol and killed ten people, many of them fellow students. Pagourtzis was taken into custody and charged with ten counts of murder and various other offenses. Most of the details will sound numbingly familiar: Pagourtzis kept to himself; his father owned the weapons legally; the school was prepared; Democrats called for gun control; Republicans called for more effective security measures and mental health services; American students are afraid to go to school. Keep reading for more news.
Bessemer City. A tragic incident in Bessemer City made national news this week when a man drove a Jeep into a restaurant and killed members of his own family. Around noon on Sunday, Roger Self and his family went to lunch at the Surf and Turf Lodge, a popular restaurant in Bessemer City. Shortly after his family began eating, Self left the table and drove a Jeep into the side of the restaurant, killing his daughter Katelyn and daughter-in-law Amanda, and seriously injuring other family members. Katelyn was a corporal with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. Self has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Arrest Disparity. An investigative report from WRAL says that in North Carolina, “black students are nearly six times more likely to be arrested at school and school activities than white students.” This disparity is among the worst in the nation, according to the report, being exceeded only by West Virginia, Iowa, and Rhode Island. The article also notes that there is a significant racial disparity in the rate of student suspensions both in North Carolina and nationally.
Trooper Passes. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard died this week while pursuing a suspect who fled from a driver’s license checkpoint in Surry County. Bullard and another trooper were chasing a vehicle that did not stop at the checkpoint when Bullard’s patrol car went off the road and struck a bridge support. Our thoughts are with Trooper Bullard’s family, friends, and colleagues.
Plea Deals and Dismissals. WRAL has another investigative report that looks at the percentage of felony cases in various jurisdictions across the state that are resolved through plea deals or dismissals. The gist of the report is that certain jurisdictions have higher dismissal and plea rates in felony cases than the state average, and that these higher rates, standing alone, raise concerns about public safety. The report may be of limited value because (1) it appears to combine the rate of dismissals and the rate of pleas to lesser charges into one statistic, (2) it does not take into account differences in charging practices and other factors that may explain variations in plea and dismissal rates, and (3) there is no agreed-upon “right” rate of dismissals or pleas.
Judges Nominated and Appointed. The Greensboro News & Record says that Governor Roy Cooper has nominated three people to become special Superior Court judges. Cooper nominated Bryan Beatty, J. Stanley Carmical, and Athena Brooks. Beatty is a former Director of the SBI, and Carmical and Brooks each have served as Chief District Court Judges. In addition to those nominations, Cooper appointed six people to fill judicial vacancies across the state. William Wood was appointed as a Superior Court Judge, and Keith Mason, Sophia Gatewood Crawford, Marcus Shields, Faith Fickling, and Roy Wiggins were appointed as District Court Judges.
Kaleidoscope Eyes. When Elton John talked about being “high as a kite” as a rocket man, I think he was speaking literally. See Elton John, Rocket Man on Honkey Chateau (Uni Records 1972). The Associated Press reported this week that some U.S. Airforce rocket men tasked with guarding nuclear missiles were figuratively high as a kite on LSD and other drugs at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, a secure facility in Wyoming. I suppose you may be reassured to learn that none of the airmen have been accused of taking LSD while on duty, but that cold comfort becomes chillier when you read the part of the report that explains that investigators caught the brave mind-explorers when one posted a public snapchat of himself smoking marijuana.
Hard Road to Travel. It wouldn’t be the Friday preceding a three-day weekend without the News Roundup reminding folks to travel safely across the state’s roadways, so here it goes. The N.C. DOT has information about road construction projects and lane closures here; the Highway Patrol has suggestions for safe travel here. Enjoy the holiday, we’ll be back to blogging on Tuesday.