North Carolina

‘I don’t think I will ever feel safe again’: NC teacher ‘violently attacked’ on trail, he says

Facebook screenshot.
Facebook screenshot.

A Johnston County teacher says he doesn’t know if he will “ever feel safe again” after he says he was “violently attacked and robbed” on a greenway in broad daylight.

Wil Smith, 40, posted a detailed account of the alleged attack on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Smith said he was walking on the Clayton, North Carolina greenway trail near Amelia Village Apartments on Amelia Church Road on the afternoon of Oct. 24 when he noticed two men following him.

“A few minutes later, they attacked me from behind, threw me on the ground and then proceeded to beat me for what seemed like a lifetime,” Smith said.

The men took Smith’s phone, credit cards, keys and ran off, he said.

Smith said he advised people to avoid the greenway “until there is a heavy police presence.”

“I will probably never walk on it or any greenway or trail ever again,” he said. “People need to know about this because it will happen again, and next time it may be much worse.

“If they feel they can do this to somebody my size, there is no telling what else they may try and to whom.”

The case is under investigation, according to Clayton town spokeswoman Stacy Beard.

Smith said he won’t ever be the same.

“In just about a minute, my life was forever changed,” he said. “I will be exercising my second-amendment right because this country is scary as hell.”

Smith said he never expected to be in danger so close to home.

“I’ve walked sketchy streets all over the world from Turkey to Colombia to Morocco to Albania and have never felt like I was in danger and this happens five minutes from my house,” he said.

Smith showed photos of the injuries to his face and mouth, along with photos of him in a hospital bed.

“I don’t think I will ever feel safe again, whether I’m armed or not - it will always be a struggle to go outside and live a normal life; haven’t been back to school yet because I don’t want my kids to see me like this, but also because I’m so mentally unprepared to go in my classroom and talk to my students about what happened,” he said.

But he’s already feeling the effects of his injuries and his emotional trauma in everyday activities, Smith said.

“It’s not the same when you’re drinking beer through a straw, you can’t hardly talk or laugh because of the stitches, and you’re constantly looking over your shoulder.”

A Clayton Police report says there are two suspects in the alleged attack and robbery.

“We just cannot release any details because they may jeopardize this case,” Beard told The News & Observer on Wednesday.

But Beard said Clayton has more than 5 miles of trails throughout the town that “are extremely popular and hundreds of people safely ride, bike and walk them year-round.”

Clayton Police looked back through 5 years of police reports, and Beard said there had only ever been one other incident reported in that area — “an unfounded larceny in April 2018.”

From 2013 to 2018 on the Clayton greenways there were “3 dog complaints, 2 reports of damage to construction equipment, one report of items missing from a car in the greenway parking lot, one misdemeanor assault in which the victim and suspect knew each other, and one incident in which 2 people were charged with smoking marijuana,” Beard said.

The town asked residents to always be aware of their surroundings on the greenway, and “walk with a buddy.”

Clayton Police regularly patrol the greenways on bikes or 4-wheeled vehicles, Beard said.

They have recently increased patrols and encourage anyone who may see suspicious activity to call 911 immediately,” Beard said.

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