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News in brief

Suspect dead, deputy wounded in July 28 shooting

One man is dead and a Haywood County Sheriff’s deputy wounded after a July 28 shooting in Canton. 

According to a press release issued by Angie Grube, public information director of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, a preliminary investigation showed that a deputy and two officers responding to a possible disturbance off of Asheville Highway around 2 a.m. encountered an armed suspect standing on a billboard.

The suspect began to fire on officers, gunfire was exchanged, and the suspect, 32-year-old Jacob Wilbur Wright, of Canton, was killed. 

A deputy from the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, identified as Eric Batchelor, was shot and injured by Wright and as of July 28 was reported to be recovering in stable condition after surgery. 

As is policy in the case of an officer-involved shooting, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations is now conducting an investigation into the incident.

Questions regarding the incident, such as the make and model of the suspect’s weapon and the number of shots fired and by whom, could not be answered according to Grube, because they remain part of the investigation. 

Haywood Sheriff Greg Christopher said that officers involved in shootings are normally placed on leave, with pay, until cleared by the investigating agency or the district attorney. 

“Before they return to work we do a ‘fit for duty’ investigation,” said Christopher. “It’s normally a psychiatric evaluation of the specific incident, done by a number of different companies here in North Carolina that provide that kind of service specifically for law enforcement.”

Christopher also said that law enforcement officers can be affected, sometimes deeply, by their involvement in such incidents. 

“We are human beings, and we hurt just like other people hurt,” he said. “We have emotions just like anybody else, and I can tell you that a use of force – especially a deadly use of force event – will sometimes completely change a person’s life. It’s a very difficult thing to go through not only for them, but for their family as well.”

Grube said that there are too many factors involved with an investigation, including scope and circumstances, to provide a general timeline for its completion. When that does happen, the case file will be submitted to the district attorney for review.

— By Cory Vaillancourt


Educators hold protest Saturday

North Carolina Association of Educators will hold a Car Caravan for a socially distant call to action to Senator Thom Tillis this Saturday, Aug. 8. The goal of the protest is to implore Sen. Tillis to support the Heroes Act to ensure funding for the safe reopening of public schools. 

Around the state NCAE members, educators and supporters will gather to form caravans, then proceed to the local office of Sen. Tillis. Participants are encouraged to decorate their cars to spread their message. 

The Heroes Act is a response to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its effect on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals and businesses. Among other things, the Heroes Act would set aside federal funding for grade schools, as well as colleges and universities, to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to Coronavirus.”

For more information, or to sign the NCAE petition to keep public schools funded and safe, visit


Harris urges community to wear masks

Harris Regional Hospital is urging community members to wear face masks or cloth face coverings in public areas where social distancing is not easily achieved in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

This aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as being an effective way to prevent the spread of the illness. The hospital has already instituted a universal masking protocol within its facilities and requires anyone entering to wear a face mask at all times.

“Harris Regional Hospital strongly encourages our community members to wear masks because each of us plays an important role in helping to keep our community safe and protect one another from the spread of infectious diseases,” said Jean Sprinkle, BSN, RN, Infection Prevention Specialist at Harris Regional Hospital. “One of the easiest and most effective ways we can look out for each other and aid in the fight against COVID-19 is to wear a face mask in public spaces right now.”

Recent studies have shown that universal masking can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, especially in individuals who may be asymptomatic and unaware that they are ill. Face masks and cloth face coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth and be held securely in place with loops or ties.

“Until there is a vaccine, wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing and proper hand hygiene are our best lines of defense in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Sprinkle says. “That’s why we’ve established a universal masking protocol in our facilities to help protect our patients, providers and employees, and we’re encouraging our fellow citizens to do the same in other public places. By looking out for each other, we’ll get through this together and continue making our community healthier.”


Tipton appointed interim superintendent

The Jackson County Board of Education announced the hiring of Dr. Tony Tipton as interim superintendent at their monthly meeting on July 28. A 35-year veteran of public education, Tipton will assume the role currently held by Dr. Kimberly Elliott who will retire on Sept. 1. 

“I have worked with Dr. Tipton on the regional superintendents’ council, and he has always demonstrated caring leadership,” Elliott said.

Board Chairperson Ali Large said experience was an important factor in choosing Tipton.  “He has been a fifth-grade teacher, a middle school teacher, a high school teacher, an assistant principal, and a principal,” Large said. “We are excited for him to bring that experience to Jackson County Public Schools.”

Tipton, a former Region 8 Superintendent of the Year, retired in 2019 after nearly eight years as Superintendent of Yancey County Schools. 

“Jackson County Schools has a well-respected reputation across western North Carolina, and I am pleased to be part of this hard-working team,” Tipton said. “While the upcoming year will be anything but normal, we will be committed to providing the best and safest instruction possible for students and staff.”

Tipton and his wife Barbara have been married for 41 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

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