OUR VIEW: ‘We can’t run scared’

Thank goodness there are people like Shane Wilcox in the world. People who don’t hesitate to stop when a motorist flags them down along the side of the road at night. People who don’t hesitate to get out of their cars and offer help and the use of their cell phone when needed. People who trust that a situation is just as it seems and not something sinister.

Thank goodness Shane Wilcox is OK.

He is the man who stopped along the truck route in Greenville on Friday night after being flagged down by a woman who said her car was broken and she didn’t have a cell phone. He got out of his car and started helping the woman when two men pulled up in a truck — he assumed to assist — and started beating him up. In the end, they took his wallet and sped off.

Wilcox managed to drive himself home, bruised, sore, with a gash on his arm, and fortunately able to give a loose description of his attackers.

Friday’s incident has gotten a lot of attention. On our Facebook page, folks were quick to say that this is the kind of town we have become, that these kinds of incidents are turning us into a “mini G.R.”, that this is why people should carry concealed weapons.

While we know our area has had its share of crime in the past 12 months, we also know it’s happening everywhere. Not to downplay the seriousness of this incident, though. It was scary and disheartening, for sure, and now leaves a question as to whether it’s still OK to stop and help stranded motorists.

We touched base with Mike Pousak, director of the Greenville Department of Public Safety, to get his take on the situation. First and foremost, Pousak emphasized that this type of brutal armed robbery is not a common occurrence — either here or elsewhere. He also said his department has received a number of tips that they’re following up on, which is good news. We all need to be observant and quick to report anything that seems out of order.

Second, Pousak said he doesn’t want to deter folks from helping fellow motorists, but that he also would use added caution.

“It was a set-up,” he said. “It was an ambush. I don’t want to deter people from helping each other, but we can’t run scared.”

What we can do before stopping is assess the situation a little more closely. If you’re nervous about stopping, call 911 and report the broken car. Another option is to keep your doors locked, pull up next to the person in the stranded car and roll your window down just a bit to ask if they need help. You also could call a friend or family member and tell them where you are and what you’re doing in case something happens.

Concealed weapons aren’t the answer, either, Pousak said. As was the case with Mr. Wilcox, a concealed weapon wouldn’t have done him any good because he wasn’t expecting the first blow. In addition, they often can be taken and used against you. Plus, Pousak added, there’s the chance of shooting at someone and having a stray bullet hit another car.

If you’re the one with the car on the blink, Pousak recommends staying in your car with the doors locked and windows closed. If you have a cell phone and can call for help, wait until your contact arrives. If not, wait until someone offers assistance.

What Shane Wilcox went through last Friday night likely would deter most of us from ever stopping to help someone again. But amazingly, even the night the attack occurred, he didn’t hesitate to say he would continue to stop and help people; he’ll just be a little more cautious next time. Shane Wilcox is a class act all the way.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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