The two candidates vying to be the next Hunt County sheriff met during this week’s Hunt County GOP forum at the Paul Mathews Auditorium at Greenville High School and each addressed how they would respond to a local mass shooting incident.
Terry Jones and Kirby Luke were also asked how they would deal with the issue of multiple missing persons in the county.
Jones and Luke are on the ballot for the March 3 Republican Party primary election. As there are no Democratic, third-party or write-in candidates in the running, the primary vote will decide who succeeds current Sheriff Randy Meeks, who is retiring at the end of this year.
In the wake of a Jan. 14 shooting at Texas A&M University-Commerce which left two sisters dead and a child wounded and a shooting at a nightclub west of Greenville early on the morning of Oct. 27 that left two people dead and a dozen others were injured, six by gunfire, the candidates were asked to outline the principles they would follow in dealing with such an event.
Jones said there are three officers at the sheriff’s office with active shooter training and said some, but not all of the teachers in the county are armed and have also received instruction in how to deal with a scenario.
“We need to train all the way around,” Jones said, where teachers can handle the location until law enforcement officers arrive on scene. “Everybody will transition into a mode where we do not have fatal casualties.”
Luke noted that as of now, three school districts in Hunt County rely solely on the sheriff’s office for security.
“So for our county, that’s the first place I need to concentrate,” Luke said, indicating he would encourage the districts to create Student Resource Officer or similar programs. “I want to also extend that to the churches and businesses that may want to participate at some point.”
The candidates were also asked how they would address the issue of multiple missing persons cases in the county.
Luke said if elected he intended to reopen and re-evaluate each of the incidents.
“And take a second look with a second set of eyes,” Luke said, noting he had already reached out to volunteers and law enforcement agencies, including the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and FBI.
“Some of those may be solved and some may not be solved,” Luke said, adding that with future cases he would be as transparent as possible so that the families of the missing would have a resource to contact to stay updated.
Jones said he had personally been involved in the searches for Matthew Halleman Hallman, who disappeared in July 2011 and the March 2017 disappearance of Michael Chambers and was the investigator in the 2008 kidnapping and murder of Jason Herrington, which resulted in the convictions of Tracie Danielle Alphin and David Earl Hickman.
“I don’t believe in cold cases,” Jones said. “If you’re missing, if there is something that is unsolved, then that is a hot case.”