ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Parents and Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten are speaking out about a tense situation happening Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City. A Northeastern High School student was arrested and faces charges after officials found drugs and an AK-47 pistol on board.
“We found what appeared to be an AK-47 pistol with a loaded magazine in it,” Wooten said.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Wooten said he felt it was important to hold a public briefing on the incident and speak directly to the community, given the recent gun violence in the area.
“I think it’s time now as a community - if there ever was a time - for us to come together and stand together against the gun violence and drugs that are poisoning our youth and dictating our future,” Wooten said. “We are the ones that should be dictating our youth’s future, not the streets.”
Melissa Howell’s son is an elementary school student in Elizabeth City.
“It’s a pretty heavy sentence for him to make,” Howell said of Wooten’s statement.
She has been keeping tabs on the incident that took place around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Howell hopes they're able to find out how the student got their hands on the gun.
“I’m hoping that they are able to find the source, if not, there’s something bigger here,” she said.
Sheriff Wooten commended the teamwork of law enforcement, school resource officers, administrators and the school bus driver.
“This could’ve been a terrible nightmare for our community,” he said.
According to authorities, the school bus driver was first to take action after smelling a marijuana odor onboard the bus.
“Because this person wasn’t scared to say something, who knows how many lives we just saved today,” Wooten said.
“We cannot thank bus drivers enough,” Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram said. “As you know, there’s a national bus [driver] shortage, and maybe it’s incidents like this that contribute to such shortages.”
Meanwhile, the student faces many charges, including possession of a firearm on school grounds, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
At Wednesday’s news conference, News 3 asked Sheriff Wooten if the student had any plans to use the gun.
“We do not have intent thus far,” Wooten responded. “As far as using the gun, God forbid if there was a school shooting or something like that, we have no intent as of right now.”
School district leaders also said they'll take time to reflect on all of their actions, policies and procedures to be even better prepared, and added they believe Wednesday’s incident was handled as well as it can be.