Local officials respond to Connecticut shooting

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 05:03 AM

The Friday news of a gunman’s attack on a Connecticut elementary school, which resulted in the death of 26 people, stunned the nation as well as local school and law enforcement leaders.

“It’s a disaster,” said Lee County Board of Education Chairman Lynn Smith. “What a waste of humanity. It really bothers me that this happens in our society, in particular, around the holidays. I am heartbroken for the parents and students involved.”Smith said he hopes Lee County Schools is never faced with this type of tragedy and that the school’s administrators and resource officers are constantly aware of the potential threats.

As a former School Resource Officer, Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said Friday’s events make a person realize the importance of having those officers.

“They are here to protect these children and the staff,” Carter said. “Often, people think you are just there to police the kids, but the primary responsibility is to protect those students.”

The first thing people need to do is pray for the families of the victims and law enforcement officers who are impacted by Friday’s shooting, Carter said.

“It just doesn’t get any worse than that when people hurt children,” he said. “But as a father, you just really have sympathy for people when you hear this.”

It’s extremely difficult to prevent these type of attacks, Carter said, but the schools and law enforcement officers have better training and emergency planning in place in recent years.

Sanford Police Chief Ronnie Yarborough said Friday’s attack was tragic, but becoming all too common.

The penalties should be stricter for individuals convicted of a crime involving a firearm, he said, adding, there should be mandatory sentencing requirements for committing a crime with a firearm.

“These are so random,” he said, noting that in today’s world, one doesn’t know in what city or what state a tragedy could occur.