CMS Says Fans Are Safe at Football Games

by CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR. / Charlotte Observer – October 6, 2011

As thousands of people prepare to attend football games at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools this week, a CMS official said the public has nothing to fear, despite a shooting during Garinger High’s homecoming game last week.

Games today and Friday will be the first CMS football games since a man was shot Friday outside Garinger. The man, who was hospitalized with internal bleeding, is expected to survive.

Garinger won’t host a home varsity game Friday, but other schools will. “We truly believe that our security procedures provide the maximum protection,” said CMS spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte.

“We follow procedures at the games. Everyone who enters is scanned by a metal detector. We have extra off-duty police officers to help deter misbehaving people.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they have met with school officials but won’t discuss details of their plan or say whether they’re beefing up security at games.

In an emailed statement, police spokesman Rob Tufano said police leaders “met this week and will continue to work with school officials to ensure these events remain safe. The community’s expectation of public safety is priority number one, they should expect nothing less.”

Last Friday, a few minutes after Garinger crowned its homecoming queen, a teenager was shot in the parking lot of the east Charlotte high school. It was the second year in a row that shots were fired at Garinger’s homecoming game, despite increased security at the school. Someone was also shot at the school in December.

Police and CMS leaders have repeatedly said the people identified in last week’s shooting were not Garinger students (although a suspect is still at-large).

But the shooting underscores the school’s continuing problems with safety, particularly at football games that draw significant numbers of people from the community.

Police and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders have declined to give additional details about steps they will take to improve safety for football games at Garinger and other schools. And they won’t comment on the success of attempts to improve security at Garinger since last year’s shooting.

Joyce Waddell, the school board member whose district includes Garinger, says CMS needs to collaborate with people in the community surrounding Garinger.

“We need to have more communication – letting those persons coming on the campus know that this will not be tolerated,” Waddell said. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Still, Waddell added that she believes “they’ll probably have to step security up a little bit.”

Garinger students contacted by the Observer said they feel safe at the school, but worry about the blow the school’s image has suffered.

Elexus White, who was crowned homecoming queen last week, said outside the halls of the school, the only mention she hears of Garinger is usually related to some sort of violence.

“We have Web designers and people that are good with technology. We have future leaders at this school,” she said. “People don’t see that. All they see is Garinger as an urban ghetto school on the east side,” she said.

Police are still looking for the gunman in the latest shooting, which happened in the parking lot off Eastway Drive near the front of the school.

An off-duty Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer at Friday’s game responded to the scene minutes after hearing the gunshot, said Randy Hagler, an officer with the CMS police department. Witnesses told police a man shot another man who was walking in the parking lot. Police found the victim shot in the abdomen, reports stated. Last October, the school’s homecoming game was stopped at the beginning of the fourth quarter when a brawl broke out in the stands.

Shots were fired as fans left the stadium; two adults and one 17-year-old Garinger student were arrested, according to police reports.

Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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