Crime & Courts

Retired principal accused of pepper spraying Confederate re-enactors

The Sons of Confederate Veterans marched in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans marched in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday. WBTV

The man accused of pepper spraying Confederate veteran re-enactors in Newton last week is a retired Burke County Schools principal who still works for the system.

Newton Police charged Karl Philip Smith, 56, of Morganton, with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of “failure to disclose to any law enforcement officer that the person holds a valid permit and is carrying a concealed handgun when approached or addressed by the officer.” He is free pending an Oct. 11 court appearance.

Smith was a principal at two schools – first at East Burke High School and most recently at W.A. Young Elementary School – before he retired on June 30, schools spokeswoman Cheryl Shuffler told the Observer.

He was reassigned to the bus garage after he retired as a principal and plans to retire from the school system on Aug. 31, Shuffler said.

Smith earns $6,897 a month as a transportation worker and was suspended with pay on Monday pending further investigation, the Burke County Schools said Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Observer.

Smith is accused of pepper spraying Confederate veteran re-enactors participating in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade.

Two victims were treated at the scene for pepper spray exposure and then released, Newton police said.

Two parade participants notified police at 5:34 p.m. that a man armed with pepper spray was following the re-enactors. Witnesses told police that when the re-enactors stopped to fire their weapons, the man discharged pepper spray at them.

Witnesses pointed out the man to police, who immediately took him into custody without incident.

Police seized a small canister of pepper spray and a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver from Smith. He had a concealed weapons permit for the gun, police said.

“This was the only incident during the entire week of reunion events,” police said in a statement late Thursday. “With the assistance of numerous emergency response agencies, the Newton Police Department considers the 2017 Soldiers Reunion a successful event.”

Smith hasn’t returned three phone messages left by the Observer at his home since last week.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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