By Samantha J. Massey – Blowing Rock
Faced with a decision of monumental consequence, the magistrate’s response fell markedly short of the community’s expectations for justice and public safety, leaving Boone, North Carolina, to grapple with the unsettling aftermath of an incident that narrowly skirted tragedy. The apprehension of Peter M. Gabaree, has jolted citizens with the chilling realization of a murderous disaster narrowly escaped, yet it also positions the fragility of our community safety that hangs in the balance. The bond set at $10,000 for Gabaree is not just a figure; it is a statement of valuation on public safety and the weight of potential violence. It is a number that fails to encapsulate the severity of the charges he could—and arguably should—face.
The charges currently levied against Gabaree, while serious, only skim the surface of the potential threat he posed to our community. The federal statutes are clear: the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)), attempted domestic terrorism (18 U.S.C. § 2331), and making threats against individuals or infrastructure (18 U.S.C. § 875) are charges designed to address the very nature of Gabaree’s actions. These are not just charges; they are societal safeguards, mechanisms through which we express our collective intolerance for actions that threaten the fabric of our community.
The magistrate’s decision to set Gabaree’s bond at $10,000—a sum that many have argued is hazardously low considering the circumstances—raises overwhelming questions about the message we send to those who would do violence. This demands an urgent appeal for judicial authorities to meticulously assess the charges in such instances, ensuring they correspond with the severe implications of the potential offenses. The charge of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence is not merely a procedural tick; it is a recognition that the presence of a weapon escalates any situation to one of life or death. Gabaree’s alleged readiness to commit violence, equipped with a shotgun, a handgun, and a tactical vest, is a textbook definition of this charge.
Similarly, the charge of attempted domestic terrorism speaks to the intent behind Gabaree’s actions. If his aim was to sow terror, to intimidate, or to coerce, then this charge must be pursued with vigor. Terrorism is not just a crime against individuals; it is an assault on the peace and security of our society. It cannot be met with a tepid response. Moreover, the potential for making threats against individuals or infrastructure cannot be overlooked. In an age where words can be as lethal as bullets, the spread of fear and panic is itself a form of violence. If Gabaree issued threats, they too must be met with the full force of the law.
On the state level, the charges of disorderly conduct (NCGS 14-288.4) and possession of a weapon of mass death and destruction (NCGS 14-288.8) are not placeholders but pivotal recognitions of the chaos and destruction that Gabaree’s actions could have wrought. A shotgun, in the context of his alleged actions, could be considered a weapon of mass death and destruction, and his conduct undeniably disturbed the peace. The bond set for Gabaree does not reflect the potential charges he faces. It does not reflect the terror that gripped those who witnessed his actions. And it does not reflect the valor of the reporting witness and the officers who subdued him.
As Boone grapples with the aftermath of this incident, let us not be lulled into a false sense of security by a swift arrest. Instead, let us demand a bond and charges that speak to the severity of the actions and the potential for harm. Let us demand a judicial response that reassures our community that safety is the paramount concern of our local legal system. And let us be clear in our message: that those who threaten the peace and safety of our community will face the full weight of the law. In the end, the bond set for Peter M. Gabaree is more than a number—it is a symbol of our commitment to justice and our unwavering stand against violence. It is time for that number to reflect the gravity of the charges before us, and it is time for our judiciary to rise to the occasion.
To the magistrate and the judiciary at large: we call upon you to act. To act in the interest of justice, to act in the interest of public safety, and to act in the interest of setting a precedent that reflects the community values we hold dear. The charges that Gabaree faces should not be the end of the story; they should be the beginning of a narrative that tells of a community that stood firm against the threat of violence.