Neighbor calls police on Black ROTC student practicing with dummy rifle in his front yard

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Neighbor calls police on Raleigh teen practicing with ROTC rifle
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RPD officers questioned him for several minutes before suggesting he practice in the family's backyard.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When 16-year-old Jathan Harris walked into his home Tuesday evening around 10 p.m., he told his parents Raleigh Police had just arrived after a neighbor called law enforcement on him.

"We thought he was joking at first," said his father Shawn Krest.

Harris, who is a sophomore at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, was practicing his ROTC drills with a dummy rifle that was purchased from Dick's Sporting Goods. According to police, they arrived at the family's home after receiving a call.

"Police told me they had a lot of people coming our way," said Krest.

As officers arrived, Harris said he immediately put down the wooden rifle and stepped away from it. He told ABC11 that RPD officers questioned him for several minutes before suggesting he practice in the family's backyard. Police left after several minutes.

Krest, and his wife, were inside the home unaware of what was happening in front of their quiet home in the cul-de-sac.

"The more you think about it, the scarier it gets," said Krest. "If Jathan had his back turned. If he'd been surprised by them, who knows what could have happened? The first that we could have heard of it is when we heard gunshots out here. That's how it could have ended last night."

Shawn tweeted about the experience late Tuesday evening.

"I can understand it'd be scary to see someone walking down the street with a rifle," he said, "But if you watched it for more than 10 seconds, it's pretty clear what he's doing."

Tuesday's incident serves as a fairly new and constant reminder for Krest, who is white. He married Jathan's mother, who is Black, less than three years ago.

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"This is all still new to me," said Krest. "This isn't something I had thought about or had to deal with in raising my three daughters."

Jathan had a feeling something like this would happen. But had hoped it wouldn't. "I still had that sense because what I'm doing, people will automatically assume ya know that I'm doing something dangerous and that's not really the case," he said. "I just know in the back of my mind that the police will be called."

Nonetheless, Jathan will continue practicing his ROTC drills. At one point, he wanted to be a police officer and was even a member of the Raleigh Police Explorers program. Krest will take a seat outside instead of watching from inside the house.

"I've got a lawn chair," Krest said. "So if I need to sit out at the end of our driveway and watch him do it to make sure the neighbors don't get upset again, that's what we'll do."

Krest said Raleigh Police handled the situation very well and did nothing wrong. However, he would have preferred if officers spoke with him while the incident played out in front of the house.