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A tragic, awful event could have been much worse
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It may have seemed like an extreme measure at the time. But hindsight often offers a better perspective and in this case, it shows the authorities’ decision to clear a neighborhood in Westwood Heights last Friday night was the right one.

No one knew just what Chad Moretz was capable of doing; no one had an indication of what it appears he had done already.

When deputies were told Moretz had a high-powered rifle and had no intention of being taken alive, they quickly went through the neighborhood and got the residents out of harm’s way. With an apparently unbalanced and armed individual, getting innocent people out of his potential path of destruction had to be done. It was swift and decisive action.

From all indications, the law enforcement personnel who swarmed the Whitehall Avenue house had no choice once Moretz stepped out onto his front porch and pointed his AR-15 in their direction. He had told negotiators he would use the scope in his weapon to sight in law enforcement personnel.

So once he stepped out of the house, his AR-15 in hand and its barrel swung toward the surrounding law enforcement personnel, the decision to shoot Moretz was automatic.

But the deputies and police officers who were there — first to ask if Moretz had any knowledge of Charles Ray III’s whereabouts and then to bring a hostage situation, hopefully, to a peaceful end — could not have imagined the horrors that awaited inside the Whitehall Avenue home.

What drove Moretz to repeatedly plunge a knife into Ray’s body and then dismember the body, keeping parts at the Whitehall Avenue home and taking the torso to a storage shed in South Carolina, remains a mystery.

This is a crime whose savagery both stuns and alarms. How did someone with Moretz’s criminal background and with questions about his own mental stability come into possession of not only a handgun but an automatic rifle?

It also, unfortunately, answers the question — “can something like that ever happen here?” Because it has now. It is an awful, tragic situation, particularly for the Ray family, which held out hope they could find Charlie alive. Instead, he appears to have met an inexplicably vicious and violent end.  The whole incident is appalling and disturbing, and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and the other agencies involved deserve thanks for making it sure it didn’t turn out even worse.