Parents, teachers, and students overwhelmed by speed and precision of RCSD response

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

In the wake of “a report of shots fired” hoax at Blythewood High School earlier this month in which deputies from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RSCD) responded in less than two minutes; thank you notes, letters of praise, and applauding emails have flooded the department’s mailboxes and email inboxes. The expressions of gratitude from those who witnessed first-hand RCSD’s tactical response on Oct. 5 have been overwhelming. Following are a few such notes:

[For privacy’s sake, we have not included names]

EMAIL 1: Dear Sheriff Lott, I am a teacher at Blythewood High School. I would like to say on behalf of all teachers at Blythewood that we are so grateful for the response and courage of your deputies today. Please continue whatever training you’re doing with your deputies. The number of officers who entered our school and put the safety of our students first brought tears to my eyes. I am incredibly grateful to know we can count on Richland County to respond quickly and effectively. Thank you. Please tell your deputies ‘thank you’ from me and the staff and students at Blythewood High School.

EMAIL 2: Dear Sheriff Lott, I work at Blythewood High School and I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your immediate response. Thank you for sending us the best SROs (school resource officers) in the world. Thank you for making me feel incredibly safe in what was the most traumatic day I’ve ever had as an educator. When I called my husband to tell him I was safe, the first thing that made him feel better was me telling him about the army of officers you sent. My students and I were amazed and uplifted to hear about your one-minute and 26-second response time. One student wrote in his journal that ‘God forbid something like this happens again, the shooter doesn’t know what is coming because our officers know what to do!’ Seeing kids feel better with your presence was an immense peace for me. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

EMAIL 3: Dear Sheriff Lott, my wife is a school nurse at Blythewood High School, and she relayed to me how impressed she was with RCSD’s response to today’s incident. Please thank your team from us.

EMAIL 4: Dear Sheriff Lott, I have two children who attend Blythewood High School. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of the officers who responded yesterday. Thank you for the response time, the adequate number of officers who responded, and the assurance provided to the community in the press conference. We often criticize too much and we don’t express gratitude enough. Although my children along with others were scared, they knew the situation inside was being handled by local law enforcement agencies. Thank you again.

EMAIL 5: Dear Sheriff Lott, I am a teacher at Blythewood High School and was in the building on Wednesday [Oct. 5]. I just wanted to reach out and tell you how much I appreciate you and your entire police force. You guys absolutely nailed the entire situation. I am proud to live in a county where our law enforcement is so well trained and prepared for such a situation. I exited the building from the upstairs wing, and it made me feel comfortable when I could hear the officers coming down the hallway to evacuate our classroom. Once we exited the classroom, the hallway was full of officers. That as well as seeing you in the building, was great to see. We all appreciate you guys. P.S. We have the absolute best SROs in the world at Blythewood High School.

EMAIL 6: Dear Sheriff Lott, I’ll make this short. I just wanted to commend you and your force for the outstanding response you had to that totally insane incident that occurred the other day at Blythewood High School. I don’t know how any police force could have possibly responded any better and any quicker than yours did. God love you for doing the job that you do for the people in Richland County. We are blessed to have you on the job. Well done!

EMAIL 7: Dear Sheriff Lott, I would like to thank the entire RCSD for their work that went above and beyond the call of duty at Blythewood High School today. My daughter was at school today, and she shared a video with me of RCSD deputies running into the school ready to protect her and her classmates and the staff. While this terrified me, I am thankful to all who responded for their hard work and dedication to community and to the safety of my daughter while rushing into harm’s way. As a Columbia native, we moved away from the area while in the military and returned to Columbia last month after we retired. My family truly appreciates the work of the entire RCSD. Thank you.

– These are but a few of the notes that RCSD continues to receive from the Blythewood community. Most were sent within 24 hours of the incident.