Humboldt City Schools and law enforcement officials address Tuesday’s shooting

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 5:32 PM CST
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HUMBOLDT, Tenn. (WMC) - Humboldt City Schools officials along with law enforcement held a press conference Thursday morning regarding Tuesday night’s shooting at Humboldt High School.

“As adults we have to know that schools are safe havens for children, it’s just places that they know they can go and they can always be safe. We can’t taint that image for them,” Humboldt City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Epperson said.

Police say the suspect accused of the deadly shooting turned himself Wednesday evening, and is being held on a $1.5 million bond.

18-year-old Jadon Hardiman has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and tampering with evidence among other charges.

“My mission as the DA is to make sure Jadon Hardiman never walks as a free man again,” District Attorney for Crockett, Gibson and Haywood counties Frederick Agee said.

Police say Hardiman killed 21-year-old Justin Pankey and wounded two others.

“At this point after reviewing security video supplied to us by the school we do not believe that they were targeted. We do not believe they were even part of the incident. We think they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Lt. Tony Williams with the Humboldt Police Department said.

One of the victims was airlifted to Regional One in Memphis, police have identified him as 18-year-old Xavier Clifton who remains in critical condition.

“He was shot in the neck and from what we understand now is paralyzed from the neck down,” Agee said.

Officials say the incident happened during halftime, the shooting itself took place in the lobby of the gymnasium.

Dr. Epperson estimates there were close to 500 people at the game.

She says two security guards were at the game, but were not aware someone brought a gun on school property. “When you usually go to a ball game you don’t usually see that prison mentality, where there is a metal detector or someone wanding down kids,” Epperson said.

Students returned to school Thursday after classes were canceled Wednesday.

Dr. Epperson says all students started the day with an assembly. She says those who knew Pankey were still shaken up.

“When I was at the assembly today, some of the kids were pretty emotional because it’s a small community, and they were related to Justin,” Dr. Epperson said.

The district has counselors and social workers on site this week and says they will continue to be available for students.

“We put a QR code last night on each website and we had students go on to enter any questions that he or she might have been dealing with or some concerns they may have been facing,” Dr. Epperson said.

The district is now looking into GoFan, a ticket-buying program that would track event attendance.

“If you don’t have a ticket you can’t get in and also gives us a roster of everyone who is in the building and at the game,” Dr. Epperson said.

The date for the preliminary hearing has not been set. We will keep you updated on this case.

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