Jathan Walthour is a current high school Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) candet in North Carolina.
After receiving a wooden practice or "dummy" rifle as a part of his training, to memorize and practice drills and formations, Walthour learned how supportive some of his neighbors are of his future plans of military service.
Walthour was practicing his drills in his own front yard with his dummy rifle when a police car showed up at his home.
As it turned out, one of his neighbors had seen him practicing outside and reported a threat in the neighborhood, despite the fact Walthour was clearly practicing a routine and had not pointed it at anyone.
When the police arrived, the teen dropped the dummy rifle, stepped away from it and made sure both of his hands were fully visible.
Fortunately, the police officers quickly realized they had received a false call after briefly speaking to Walthour and noting the fake rifle.
You can watch news coverage here:
Walthour was shaken by the event.
"I was definitely scared that I could have gotten killed that day, or at least placed in handcuffs."
Walthour also said he knew what to do because of a "Police Explorers" community program he had taken part in.
"I placed the gun down on the ground and walked away from it."
"And I kept my hands visible, away from my pockets and things because the officers recommend you keep your hands where the officers can see you."
Shawn Krest, who married Walthour's mother two years before, confided it was difficult to have these conversations with his child, but it was important, given the times and frequency of racial bias related deaths.
Krest also took to Twitter, where he shared a thread of tweets about the incident.
"This is my son, Jathan. He's on the Air Force ROTC drill team at Sanderson High. This afternoon, he got his dummy rifle to practice with."
"He went outside (in our cul de sac) to practice with it. Within 10 minutes, the police pulled up. Not sure who but one of our neighbors called them and they came right away (that's a lie, I know exactly who it was)."
"He set the drill rifle down and stepped away as soon as he saw the car approach. They were not aggressive with him and saw right away that it was 'a misunderstanding' on the neighbor's part."
"They suggested that maybe he could practice marching & drill in the back yard instead of the front yard."
"Instead, I'll be buying a lawn chair & patio table tomorrow morning & sit out in our driveway whenever he wants to practice, to make sure our neighbors don't try to get him killed."
This is my son Jathan. He’s on the Air Force ROTC drill team at Sanderson High. This afternoon, he got his dummy ri… https://t.co/L3zdNpOGWg— Shawn Krest (@Shawn Krest)1618369601.0
Some who saw Krest's tweets offered their condolences.
@ShawnKrest As a former Sanderson JROTC drill instructor, I applaud your son’s passion to improve his skills and hi… https://t.co/CrcJfYWi87— Chief Price 🇺🇸 (@Chief Price 🇺🇸)1618513927.0
@ShawnKrest @lebrownlow That is such a sad picture of America today. Likely the first of many such "situations" Jat… https://t.co/IRTc2RkGgg— Celia Dean (@Celia Dean)1618406360.0
@ShawnKrest I am SOO sorry Jathan had this experience. But I'm even happier to know he knew what to do to protect h… https://t.co/P8hQ9wjHaI— Ms.LES (@Ms.LES)1618535191.0
@ShawnKrest I wish I could be shocked but I'm not. I am sorry your son and you and your wife have to worry about this in 2021.— Mike Kline 😷 (@Mike Kline 😷)1618409123.0
Others offered their support.
@ShawnKrest This makes me crazy. I did exactly this except when I was in jrotc, they let us bring home demilitarize… https://t.co/QPmEQavoSr— Paul Cabana (@Paul Cabana)1618427179.0
@ShawnKrest I’m a Sanderson grad that lives in Raleigh still. I will come sit outside with your son so he can practice anytime.— ginporte (@ginporte)1618418934.0
@ShawnKrest Hey, almost-neighbor: that just sucks. I thought we were better than that around here. I guess not. If… https://t.co/SwSj2n2WHE— AckThpfft! (@AckThpfft!)1618505232.0
After it was suggested Walthour practice in his backyard instead, Krest decided to create signs and flyers to distribute and place in the front yard, so there would be no confusion about his son's ROTC practice.