First Posted: 4/10/2009
LUMBERTON Investigators working to learn why a Fairmont Middle School principal was shot Thursday morning say they have more questions than answers,.
James Hunt remains at Duke Medical Center, where he was airlifted Thursday after managing to drive himself to Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton following a shotgun blast to his face.
We dont have a whole lot. Were following leads right now, Sheriff Ken Sealey said. Ill say this about Mr. Hunt, though: The angels were with him.
Sealey said Hunt was driving to the school on Davis Road at about 7:30 a.m. when someone following Hunt in a pickup truck pulled along side his white Jeep Cherokee and fired.
Sealey said one of several residents along the rural road where Hunt was ambushed did not see the shooting or the two vehicles, but did hear a single gunshot. Sealey said there were tire marks that showed where Hunt turned around to make his way to the hospital. The vehicle could be seen parked at the hospital on Thursday, surrounded by police tape. The windows on the passenger and drivers side of his vehicle had been blown out.
Sealey said he hopes Hunt will be able to give his investigators more details about the shooting today. He was alert on Thursday but had difficulty speaking because of his injuries.
Im going to call his wife and see if hes up to talking, Sealey said.
Hunts wife Crystal is a media secretary at Lumberton Senior High School. They have two children, a boy and a girl.
Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, said James Hunt apparently saw the weapon in time to raise his arm to protect himself.
His hand was all shot up and the shotgun blast tore up a lot of the front of his face, Johnny Hunt said. Ill say it again. I dont know how he drove himself to the hospital in his condition. Whoever did this meant to kill him. The superintendent and the principal are not related.
Johnny Hunt said Hunt not only drove himself to the hospital, but was able to walk into the hospital before being escorted to the emergency department.
I believe he was a Marine, Hunt said. Hes a tough man.
Johnny Hunt said Crystal Hunt told him her husband had undergone surgery Thursday afternoon.
She said he was in good spirits, Hunt said. I believe hell need a lot of reconstructive surgery in the coming months. His face was bady shot up.
Members of Johnny Hunts administration assistant superintendents, guidance counselors, social workers and other central office staff arrived on campus at Fairmont Middle School shortly after the shooting to reassure students, parents and teachers, and to quell rumors.
By the time we arrived, some were saying that Mr. Hunt had been killed, that he had been shot multiple times and that the shooting had occurred on school property, said Johnny Hunt. My staff was able to put those rumors to rest.
Brenda Dial Deese, director of Student Services for the Public Schools of Robeson County, said central office staff members stayed in classrooms with students while Johnny Hunt and assistant superintendents Greg Killingsworth and Walter Jackson gathered teachers to explain what had happened.
The students have been very well behaved throughout this not-so-normal day, Deese said. I believe that is a reflection of Principal Hunts leadership and influence.
Johnny Hunt said James Hunt conveyed the number 212 to his school. The number is a reference to 212: The Extra Degree, a book James Hunt has been using this school year to inspire academic excellence from his staff, teachers and students.
James Hunt was an assistant principal for several years with the Public Schools of Robeson County before becoming principal at Fairgrove Middle in 2007. Johnny Hunt moved him to Fairmont Middle this school year.
It was clear to me he was very energetic and very capable of managing a larger school, Johnny Hunt said.
As parents learned of the shooting, many came to take their children home. By noon, 171 of the schools 393 students had left the campus. Many expressed shock and distress over the shooting.
I cant believe it; I just cant believe it, said one parent, who asked that her name not be used. Mr. Hunt is the last person youd expect something like this to happen.
Students will be out today for a teacher workday and will be out all next week for the Easter holiday.
Johnny Hunt said the time off will give him a chance to find an interim principal until James Hunt returns.
School board member Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, whose District 2 includes Fairmont Middle, said she appreciated Johnny Hunts response to the crisis.
Dr. Hunt will make sure everything is taken care of, Fairley-Ferebee said. In the meantimg were lifting James Hunts name up in prayer for a swift recovery.
A moment of silence was held for Hunt at the start of Thursday nights school board meeting.