MARSHALL COUNTY, KY — Two local leaders released letters Thursday regarding remarks Democratic candidate for governor Andy Beshear made about the Marshall County High School shooting during Tuesday's debate.
"I too also met with the parents of the Marshall County High School shooting, and while I didn't go in front of the cameras, what I offered them was every resource of our office to help prosecutors make sure we secure justice in that situation for the families," Beshear said during a debate with Gov. Matt Bevin.
Thursday, Marshall County Judge Executive Kevin Neal sent a letter to Beshear about that particular statement. In the letter, Neal said some of the victim's families were "extremely upset" by that comment. Neal said family members of 12 of the victims told him they were never approached by Beshear or his staff. He said the families he spoke to "feel the comment was misleading and was used in a time and place as to politicize and exploit the tragic events" of that day.
Neal said he heard Beshear "may have been at the Marshall County Judicial Building two days after the shooting for the first court appearance," and asked Beshear to clarify which victims' parents he spoke with.
The judge executive's letter was posted to the Marshall County Fiscal Court Facebook page around 2:44 p.m. Thursday, along with a Facebook Live video in which he read the letter aloud.
Thursday evening, Former Marshall County Attorney Jeffery Edwards responded with a letter of his own — this one addressed to Neal. Edwards was the county attorney when the shooting happened in January 2018.
In his letter, Edwards said he wishes Neal had called him before sending the letter to Beshear.
Edwards confirmed that Beshear, in his role as state attorney general, went to the the Marshall County Courthouse on Jan. 25, 2018 — two days after the shooting. Edwards said he walked Beshear to the grand jury room, where Beshear "met a roomful of the impacted families that were in the courthouse for the hearing that day."
"He told the families his office would provide every resource that was needed," Edwards said. "He and I both answered questions from the families. One father specifically said he needed us to be their voice in the courtroom. As he was leaving, the Attorney General had an opportunity to talk to the press, but told me that he was here to help, not talk to reporters."
Edwards also said Beshear's office started providing legal help that same afternoon and sent victims' advocates to Benton to help in the community.
"What families can remember in a time of trauma or whether they recognized someone as a member of my office or as the Attorney General is understandable. Let's not put these families in this situation," Edwards said.
Others in the community are also speaking out about the issue. Marshall County High School alumna Keaton Conner, who was there the day of the shooting and has spoken to multiple Kentucky leaders about school safety, shared on Facebook that she has spoken with Beshear many times.
In her post, Conner said:
"Hello friends! I’ve been under a rock lately studying for mid-terms, and I got on Facebook today to see that our Governor & Judge Executive have gotten some things twisted to fit their agenda.
Let me clear the air!
"I’ve met & spoken with Andy Beshear many times, and have spoken about the MC shooting specifically. Andy attended the Students for Student safety rally in Frankfort, where 60+ Marshall Co students were present. He spoke with many of us, told us to come speak with him anytime, and ASKED US “what he could do to help?” Bevin was invited to this same rally, however he watched from the window of the Capital. If anyone wants to argue, feel free to google “Students for Student Safety Rally, March 14th” You’ll be able to find numerous articles and videos which Andy is mentioned. It wasn’t until March 23rd that Governor Bevin decided to speak with students. When we were given this “privilege” we didn’t actually get to speak with Bevin, rather we listened to him ramble about his “top down, bottom up plan” for a little while until he and his personal photographer had to hit the road.
"Andy was one of the few politicians who truly took time to listen to students instead of using us for a photo op.
"I believe Governor Bevin & Judge Neal owe Attorney General Beshear an apology."
Local 6 has included both letters at the top left of this story, so you can read them in full.