Two weeks ago as the nation was trying to come to grips with a horrific school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., Montgomery County Police Officer Troy Melott reported to his post as the School Resource Officer at Clarksburg High School with the same mentality that he goes to school with every day.
Melott told reporters on Wednesday that he considers that possibility of a school shooting as part of his job every day. “I think about that every day when I come to school. There could be a day that I don’t go home. My job is to protect the people I serve in the community. That is part of my mission statement. That is part of being a police officer. It is tragic, and we hope that it will never happen in our community. But, the fact of the matter is that we have to go work and school every day and live our lives. At any given time it could happen at any school. We are all vulnerable,” said Melott.
“I didn’t think about it any more than I would on any other day. I did my job to make sure that I am protecting the students that I am called to protect.”
Later on when Melott was asked about engaging a possible shooter in the school, even one with overmatched firepower, the father of two one teenager and one 21-year-old said, “When I took this job as a police officer, part of my mission statement was to lay down my life for others, like those who have come before me. Absolutely, that is part of my job, and that is what I would do to protect those that I serve.”
It was Melott, along with the Clarksburg security team, who received word that 18-year-old Alwin Chen had brought a handgun into school on Thursday, Feb. 15.
It was Melott who went to the classroom, safely separated Chen from his bookbag, and discovered the gun and knife on Chen.
It was Melott, and the Clarksburg High-security team did this without drawing any undue attention to the situation and secured the school without 99 percent of the students and staff knowing there was a problem.
“I don’t consider myself a hero. I was just doing my job,” he said.
“I asked him if there was anything in his bookbag that I needed to know about,” said Melott. “He stated that he had a loaded Glock 19 in his book bag. It was at this point that I verified that it was indeed a weapon and placed him in handcuffs. It was approximately 2:10 pm and school was letting out at 2:30 pm. We had the threat. We had the person in custody. And, we a got the students out of there and home safely.”
“I did not expect to find a loaded gun. It was the last thing I wanted to see. But it was real, and it was there.” Melott said he was “I was very surprised at how forthcoming he was. But, I appreciated his honesty.”
Melott has been a police officer for 29 years, having worked for the DC Metro Police for five years before joining the Montgomery County Police Department. He’s been the SRO at Clarksburg High School for five years. He said his time among the Coyotes has allowed him to get to know and understand the school and community.
“Working in Clarksburg means a lot to me,” he said. “The community is very supportive of the school and the students. Kids are resilient. The community is resilient. They want answers.”
“Being there for five years, I do have a good rapport with the kids. It was nice to know that someone came forward. That is not easy. A lot of kids would not do that. It is disturbing. It is not the norm. It did help us maybe prevent a tragic situation at the school,” he said.
Melott was at Clarksburg during the difficult death of four members of the Class of 2017, one killed in a train accident in September of 2015, and three more killed in a horrific auto accident the following June. Melott has seen the school and community gather close and grieve and rally behind the Clarksburg Strong motto.
“After we lost those four boys in Clarksburg it really pulled the students and the community together. We all grieved together. I personally knew two of those families. It was a tragic situation. The kids have remained strong.”
“I go in, I greet the kids, and I talk to them between classes. They dap me up, slap my hand, they say ‘Hey,’ it is a great feeling. Every day I get to go in and talk to these kids and try to put a good light on police and why are truly are there to protect them and improve our relationships with them,” said Melott.
He said that this latest incident to shake Clarksburg would only help serve to help to further bring the community together. “There have been some kids that may have taken this latest incident more seriously and didn’t come to school the next day. All in all, the kids are resilient, and they stick together. I haven’t noticed that the majority of students have been different or changed since the incident. I have talked to kids in classes, unrelated to this, speaking in law or civics classes and their questions are still the same. They still focus on search and seizure laws and stuff like that which I talk about in class. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have affected them differently. I feel that they still feel safe at Clarksburg High School.”
He also had praise for the six members of Clarksburg High School security team that he works with every day. “I am blessed that I had people around me and we all did the right thing, and there was no incident. I see them every day. I see them more than I see officers that went through the academy with, they are part of my family, my workforce. They are another extension of security in the school with me. If it weren’t for them, a lot of times I wouldn’t be able to do my job efficiently. The integrity and commitment they have to keep our school safe, especially at Clarksburg is commendable. I commend them each and every day.”
However, the incident which has made the officer a minor celebrity amongst parent has also raised his profile with the students. “I didn’t hurt my relationship with the kids. It was business as usual when we came back on Monday. We talk and converse every day, and now even more kids have been coming up to talk to me. But there was no pep rally.” He said he does think students are becoming more comfortable with the police presence at the school. “They are gaining trust in me and why I am at the school,” he said.
Melott, every staff member at Clarksburg High School, has a job to do. Some are there to educate and some, like himself, are there to protect the kids while they are in the school.
Photo by Germantown Pulse.