It can happen here

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

R-C News-Herald Editorial

We knew it could happen.

We’ve watched it happen in other places.

But, those places have been on television. Despite those grim reports of courtroom violence, they were hundreds and thousands of miles away.

Certainly our judges, district attorneys and court personnel in the Roanoke-Chowan area were safe.

Wednesday morning we found out how inaccurate those assumptions could be.

Because of one man’s bent to violence, an entire courtroom was in danger and this courtroom wasn’t on television. It was the pristine, historical courthouse in Jackson.

Thankfully, only the defendant was fatally wounded during the melee. It could have been much worse.

Had not officers reacted the way they are trained to react, 20 people could have been killed and maybe more.

It was a tragedy that many people could have imagined seeing on television, but almost none could have believed it was playing out before their very eyes in Northampton County.

Wednesday was a sad day because it took our innocence. In the words of our own District Attorney, “The most difficult part of this whole ordeal is that we are presented with the fact that we are not as safe as we thought we were.”

That grim reality is something everyone in the Roanoke-Chowan region will have to deal with as they face this horrible truth.

That truth isn’t the only one people in Judicial District 6B in general and Northampton County in particular can take away from this tragedy.

There were several other truths learned during the moments before, during and after the ghastly events which unfolded in Jackson.

The first is that we have a District Attorney who knew the dangers and could have bailed on Superior Court in Northampton County Wednesday. Valerie Mitchell Asbell could have easily sent a subordinate into the courtroom alone, but she went because she represents the people of Judicial District 6B.

She put her life on the line to represent the people of her district and showed her heart and determination for seeing justice done.

Next, Judge Alma Hinton did not bow down to the wishes of a convicted criminal with a history of courtroom violence. She instead stood by the law and her convictions.

Lastly, the citizens of Northampton County learned they were safe in the hands of their sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Wardie Vincent prepared his officers for a bad day in court. He had multiple meetings to have his officers ready in case Willie Forrest attempted violence in Jackson.

They were ready and they lived up to their sworn duty to protect and serve. They immediately went into action and they risked their own lives to protect the others in the courtroom.

By all accounts from the courtroom, if Deputy Corey Jackson is not a hero, one doesn’t exist in this state. He immediately put himself in harm’s way to protect those who were in that courtroom.

Court Bailiff Joe McGee did the same. He was called on to make the hardest decision any officer ever makes and he did what he had to do to protect the people of Northampton County.

Yes, Wednesday morning’s events in Jackson were cause for alarm and cause for concern. They were also cause for thankfulness and belief in those duly elected to serve the citizens of Northampton County and Judicial District 6B.