TALLASSEE, AL (WSFA) - Parents in Tallassee are on alert following the arrests of five high school students on charges of compelling street gang membership. Many parents spent their Wednesday at the high school or the police department demanding more information.
The outcry for justice is getting louder as parents came forward with information about threats made to their children before the five juveniles were arrested. "I have proof what's going on with my son and it is wrong," said Vickie Sears whose son is a sophomore at Tallassee High School.
After news of the arrests Tuesday her son handed over a letter allegedly written and signed by the alleged gang members. "They told him they would kill him," she said, "to watch his back..." The threat apparently came because he wouldn't join their family.
"I am not scared of this little gang," Sears said, but others are. One parent, who didn't want be identified, sent an email to WSFA 12 News stating her daughter is terrified to go to school saying, "It doesn't have to be another Columbine."
Even though the charges seem to convey that there is a gang issue Tallassee Police Chief Jimmy Rogers says, "I think we have areas in each community that can be considered gang-related." He is confident that the issue in Tallassee is "confined to a small group of individuals."
Rogers said the Tallassee Police Department has been investigating the case for three weeks and found enough evidence to make the arrests. Police say the students turned themselves in at the police department and not at school, as some parents had thought.
Mothers like Vickie Sears aren't satisfied. She says her son's name was found in some of the evidence that lead to the arrests, and she believes the school or the police department should have contacted her family immediately.
When Sears confronted the school principal, Debra Lunsford, Wednesday she said the principal dismissed the claim. "She told me it was a lot of hearsay," Sears said, "and a lot of blown up stories. This ain't blown up and this ain't no story, and it is signed by two of the children and it is real," she said.
Parents demanding answers from the Principal Lunsford will soon have to find another person to question, however. On Monday the school board voted not to renew her contract. Superintendent Dr. James Jeffers would not say if the decision was made based on the events leading up to the arrests.