Local News

School kids played outside while Dunn manhunt was under way

Posted March 30, 2012 5:16 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2012 8:18 p.m. EDT

— An administrator of a Dunn private school said Friday that children were outside playing Monday as a manhunt was under way 2 miles away for a car theft suspect and that law enforcement officers never notified the school about it.

That suspect, authorities have said, also broke into a house after the search was called off, assaulted the woman living there and stole a gun from the home.

One officer, however, did wave at the children, Tammy Emanuel, vice principal of Faith Education Academy, said.

"This man is running around. He could have jumped into the car with one of our parents. He could have grabbed any of our children here," she said. "We had never been notified that anything was going on until the last parent came through the line and told us that the patrolmen were down there across the road with guns looking for a man who stole a car."

The school eventually went on lockdown after 3:30 p.m. – four hours after Johnell Chance, 44, of Greensboro, allegedly stole a car from an automotive dealer and crashed it into a tree outside the home of James and Kelly Young.

"But we should have done that at 11 a.m., when the law was aware that there was a manhunt going on in the woods down the road," Emanuel said.

Dunn police said their department and the Harnett County Sheriff's Office conducted an extensive search for Chance but, when they couldn't find him, thought he might have gotten away and called off the search.

When they left the area, the Youngs have said, Chance broke into their home. Kelly Young said she had to fight him off with a baseball bat.

In regard to the Youngs' case, Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins, whose office has jurisdiction over the area, said the Youngs should have been notified.

For Emanuel, there is no excuse for what happened. Every officer who was involved, she said, had to pass by the school.

"Harnett County was wrong. The Dunn police were here, they were wrong. The Erwin Police Department even got in on the manhunt, but nobody bothered to notify anyone," she said. "If all 90 of the children were dead, is saying, 'I should have done something else,' OK?"

Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones said Wednesday that his department never contacted anyone because they had no indication that Chance was a threat and that officers didn't want to alarm neighbors unnecessarily. He declined to comment Friday, referring to statements he made Wednesday in which he defended his officers' actions.

"If we'd alerted all those people out there, all those people out there would have been sitting around with shotguns and rifles, and somebody probably would have gotten hurt," Jones said.

But parents, like Tamara Gilbert, whose 13-year-old son attends the school, said that not alerting the public was careless.

"They were still in school when the guy stole the shotgun," she said. "That put the school in danger and everyone else all along this road."

Gilbert said she called the police department to express her concerns and was told that the situation should have been handled differently.

"That doesn't really satisfy me. I mean, it's over and done with, but they should have protected our kids," she said. "It wouldn’t have taken anything to pick up a phone or something while they were in high pursuit to call the dispatch to call the school. What's five minutes out of their time? While they were waving, they could have been on the phone."