- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

If ever anybody deserved a hero’s hug, it’s Jamie Addington, Bull Run Middle School assistant principal. Give this man, obviously gifted with bionic ears, a big year-end bonus.

Mr. Addington’s swift actions averted what could have been another Columbine High School massacre last Friday in Prince William County, Va., when he discovered a 12-year-old Boy Scout dressed in combat fatigues and loading a rifle in the bathroom. On the floor nearby were two other weapons.

According to police accounts, Mr. Addington, a hunter, heard the unmistakable sound of someone loading a rifle. Sure enough, he said he found the student popping a cartridge into a .30-06 rifle.

You just don’t know when terrible trouble will hit or from whom.

The 12-year-old was described as quiet boy from “a good Christian family,” who did chores for his neighbors without being asked, like any good Boy Scout. Heck, his brother is an Eagle Scout and his father is a Boy Scout troop leader. Ironically, the Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be prepared.” Prince William County, still reeling from the 2002 sniper shootings and ensuing capital murder trial, may never be the same. By now, surely the plain folk who live in those supposedly quiet suburbs to be far from the crime in the city ought to be worried about being turned into targets.

Unfortunately but finally, someone in the sleepy suburbs gets it. Mr. Addington’s wife, Sherry, a schoolteacher herself, told The Washington Post: “This can happen anywhere.”

Indeed, tomorrow is promised to no one.

Which is why you’ve got to wonder what the boy’s mother, Naomi Lewis, 38, of Haymarket, Va., was thinking if the police accounts are true that she knew there were weapons in her car when she locked it up in the school parking lot and went to work in the cafeteria without a word to anyone. She was anything but prepared. She should be spared no sanction.

Mrs. Lewis will be arraigned today in Prince William General District Court on charges of possession of a weapon on school property. Yesterday, her son was arraigned in juvenile court on five charges, including conspiracy to commit murder. He is being held without bond in a juvenile facility. A second boy, a 13-year-old who backed out of the purported plot, was arrested yesterday and charged in the case. He was released into the custody of his parents.

Can you imagine what manner of torment could lead a child to this end? Worse, can you imagine why pleas for help were ignored? He not only told his friends about his plot to get even with the bullies who picked on him about his clothes, his glasses and his weight; he also apparently enlisted their help.

Unbelievably, they thought he was joking. Who’s laughing now?

By the way, why does any family need “bags of guns” (at least 20 weapons) in a house inhabited by teenage boys, if the news reports are true about the firearms the police carted out of the Lewis house?

Do people ever really pay attention to the Headline Horrifics? Do they really believe “those things” only happen to “those people”? Invariably when these Headline Horrifics happen, someone expresses surprise that such-and-such involving so-and-so happened here. And, several people expressed that “can’t imagine it happening here” sentiment after all were gratefully safe and sound after last week’s incident in Gainesville, Va.

The good news is that the leaders of Prince William County’s school and police departments were not lulled by statistics or stereotypes. Realizing that crime can happen anywhere at the hands of anyone, they took the lessons from Columbine to heart and were ready with their school violence response plan just in case the worst came to their doorstep.

Other school districts — be they urban or suburban — should take note and follow suit.

First, Mr. Addington’s morning patrols of the school’s nooks and crannies as well as classrooms and halls were the first line of defense and were a big payoff. Second, the schoolteachers and administrators developed an emergency drill and practiced it. So did the police. Everyone knew what to do before the crisis and the chaos arose.

They planned their work and worked their plan. Precious lives were saved in Prince William County last week because they thought like Boy Scouts to “be prepared.” Kudos.

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