Officials say despite altercations, Columbus High 'very safe place'

November 21, 2009 9:48:00 PM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


Reaction has been minimal to possible student involvement in a recent drive-by shooting, according to officials at Columbus High School. 


CHS Principal Craig Shannon says he hasn''t received a single phone call from parents in regard to a Nov. 14 drive-by shooting which may have involved CHS students. One of four suspects arrested by the Columbus Police Department in relation to the shooting was picked up Wednesday at CHS. All four men are 18 years old or younger. 


By law, Shannon could not confirm whether any of the suspects were students at CHS, but he did confirm an altercation took place on the evening of Nov. 13 during a basketball game near the school''s parking lot entrance on McCrary Road. The CPD believes the shooting stemmed from the altercation. 


Suzanne Bean, co-president of CHS''s parent-teacher organization, was unaware of the incident''s relation to the school. 


"I have been out of town a little bit, but I spoke with my daughter (a junior at CHS) and haven''t heard anything," she said. 


Bean expressed confidence school administrators were taking adequate steps to ensure student safety. 


"We know CHS is a very safe place and I''m comfortable with my daughter being there," Bean said. 


Officials with the CPD reported the altercation near CHS, the drive-by shooting and a second shooting Nov. 15 in which nobody was injured and no suspects apprehended, could be gang related. Chief Joseph St. John says the department is investigating possible ties between the four drive-by suspects and the Black Guerrilla Family, or BGF, which is a known prison gang, but local members claim the name refers to a rap group. 


"We''re investigating if they''re members of the BGF or any gang affiliation," St. John said. 


The BGF''s reported rivals in Columbus are the Memphis Town gang. 


Officer Bernard Jones, head of security at CHS, says gangs are "nonexistent, more or less" at school. He says fights do occur at the school, but they rarely involve more than two individuals and are more seldom gang related. 


To prevent fights or inappropriate behavior at CHS, teachers and administrators stand in the halls between classes and before and after school. 


"Every time students are in the hallway, they walk about 20 or 30 steps before they run into another adult," Shannon said. 


Shannon also holds monthly parent meetings during which he provides statistics on the number of fights which take place at CHS and the nature of the altercations. Through these meetings, Bean says a slight gang presence has been reported, but gangs are not a major problem. 


"They do not tolerate any gang behavior," she said. 


Shannon says gang activity at CHS usually manifests in the form of students wearing colored hats or drawing gang symbols in their notebooks. He says such activity is rare and addressed immediately. 


"Honestly, I think we may have some individuals that may be affiliated with gangs outside of campus, but they understand that that behavior is not tolerated here inside our school building. Students know they do not bring those types of activities into the school," he said. 


The altercation which took place just off the CHS campus Nov. 13 involved 10-15 individuals. Blows were exchanged briefly but the crowd dispersed in a matter of seconds when CHS officers approached. 


The CPD was notified and responded to the scene. A short while later officers stopped a group of young men for questioning. When the officers were about to leave the scene, one patrol car ran over a gun which officers believe was thrown under the car by the young men to avoid being caught with the weapon. An automatic pistol and a revolver were recovered from beneath the police cruiser. 


No charges were pressed because the officers did not witness the young men in possession of the firearms. Officers witnessed the young men leave the scene in a gold Chrysler. 


Around 1 a.m. Nov. 14, Amarcus Patmon, 18, of Columbus, was shot twice in the leg during a drive-by shooting on Seventh Avenue North. 


Officers responding to the scene pulled over the same gold Chrysler and arrested its driver, Joseph Allen Rush, 18. Quinton Cortez Hairston, 17; Jameale Cortez Willis, 17; and Javarr Marquest Johnson, 18, were later arrested in connection with the shooting. 


Another shooting took place Nov. 15 on 23rd Street North. Nobody was injured or arrested in the shooting and police are investigating its connection with previous incidents.