Threats fail to develop

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 15, 2005

WINDSOR – The halls of Bertie High School were less crowded here Tuesday.

With rumors flying of gang-related violence at the school in retaliation for the California execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, many Bertie High parents kept their children out of school on Tuesday.

Williams, the co-founder of the violent Crips street gang, was put to death by lethal injection early Tuesday morning at San Quentin Prison. Incarcerated since 1981, Williams was sentenced to die for the 1979 murders of four people in Los Angeles.

“From what I was told, there were only about 300 students attending the high school on Tuesday,” Greg Atkins, Bertie County Sheriff said.

The Sheriff added that Bertie High is the home of approximately 1,100 students.

“This was a case where some of the students started talking about the possibility of violence at the school and it just snowballed from there,” Atkins said. “Earlier, there were a few fights at the school, all unrelated to the Tookie Williams ordeal. Those fights just helped fan the flame as far as the horror stories of gang-related violence were concerned.”

There were no reports of any type of criminal activity at the school on Tuesday, said the Sheriff.

By late in the day on Monday, Atkins said he had received numerous phone calls from parents, all concerned over the possibility of violent acts at the school on Tuesday.

“They all asked if it was safe to send their kids to school on Tuesday and I told them it would be just as safe at the high school as any other day,” Atkins said.

He continued, “This was a case where the rumors were flying. By no means did we downplay the situation. We were aware of the rumors in regards to possible retaliation at the school if Tookie Williams was executed.”

The Sheriff also confirmed his office was aware of gangs attempting to become organized at the high school.

“I don’t know what qualifies someone as a card-carrying ‘Crip’ or ‘Blood’ (another national gang), but I do know there is an apparent effort at Bertie High School for the gangs to become organized,” Atkins noted. “It’s becoming more of a problem than in the past, but I want our citizens to know that we’re aware of the situation and are monitoring its progress.”

At Hertford County High School, principal Larry Cooper said he fielded about a dozen calls from concerned parents, all saying they had heard rumors from their children over the same possibility of retaliation in the wake of Williams’ execution.

“We were prepared, but nothing occurred here,” Cooper said. “We brought in some extra law enforcement officers from the Ahoskie Police Department and Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, just in case they were needed. They came in and stayed a while on Tuesday morning.”

Cooper said he not notice any drop in student attendance on Tuesday.