An announcement to the parents and guardians of Fairview Heights Elementary School students went out from the Richmond County Schools Thursday morning just before 11 a.m. to inform them of shots fired near the school.
“This morning we received word that gunshots were reported in the Hamlet area near Fairview Heights Elementary School,” said Richmond County Schools Superintendent George Norris in a statement to the Daily Journal on Thursday. “Officials responding to the reports located the source of the gunshots and confirmed the shots were not close to the elementary school. Student schedules were not interrupted in any way. An AlertNow call was sent to parents and guardians of students at Fairview Heights Elementary. Richmond County Schools continues to hold student safety as its highest priority.”
Although Norris said “the source of the gunshots” was located, Hamlet Police Chief Amery Griffin said otherwise.
According to Chief Griffin, a call from Margie’s Treasure Chest came at 10:14 a.m. and the caller said shots were heard in the area by the school.
“Sgt. Richard Jordan, Officer David Ferron and I checked the surrounding area,” said Griffin. “A few people were spoken to in the Pinecroft Community and one person said it sounded like shots were being fired in the Battley Dairy Road area.”
Griffin said the officers did not find anyone or anything in the area of the school that suggested there had been a shooting.
“There was no threat,” said Griffin. “There was nobody out with guns.”
Griffin said the school’s principal, Julian Carter, contacted Hamlet Police to find out how serious the matter was.
“There was probably a miscommunication between the school principal and us,” said Griffin. “He may have misconstrued that we found the source of the disturbance.”
According to the school system, the miscommunication made its way to the superintendent who made his statement accordingly.
“Dr. Norris, in an earlier statement, spoke on what he had heard at the time of the incident,” said Director of Public Information for Richmond County Schools Mallory Brown. “It was the result of a miscommunication.”
Less than four months ago, both Fairview Heights Elementary and Hamlet Middle School were put on lock-down the afternoon of Feb. 8 after the sounds of gunshots were reportedly heard near the school, and likewise police found no threat to students’ safety.
Students at Fairview Heights were quickly taken inside during that incident, and Principal Julian Carter placed the school under lock-down while officers with the Hamlet Police Department searched the surrounding area for the source of the noise.
Hamlet Middle School, just down the road from Fairview Heights, was also notified and placed under lock-down at the same time, school officials said then. After searching the area, Chief Griffin reported there was nobody in the area, nobody walking outside, nobody on the lawns of nearby houses and no unusual vehicles in the area.
Fairview Heights Elementary is at 104 Hamilton Ave., Hamlet.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.