Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Push to name new school after officer slain in Oct. 1 shooting strikes chord with community

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Metro Officer Charleston Hartfield is shown at community event at Molasky Family Park in Las Vegas, Aug. 2, 2011. Hartfield was killed when a gunman opened fire at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.

Fallen Officer Charleston Hartfield Is Laid to Rest

Savannah, Veronica, and Ayzayah Hartfield look on as officers move fallen Officer Charleston Hartfield's casket during a funeral service held at Central Church in Henderson, Nev. on October 20, 2017. Launch slideshow »

The heavy machinery has yet to clack and wallop the grounds of the future elementary school, workers striking their tools and chattering the day away.

But before the framing and roofing go up — and way before students rush in for the first time next year — 2,168 petition signers already envision a possible namesake: Charleston Hartfield.

Hartfield, a Metro Police officer and a Nevada National Guard first sergeant, was out enjoying an open-air concert on Oct. 1 when he transformed from fan to first responder, ushering others to safety.

The 34-year-old Army veteran and published author affectionately known as “Chucky” died a hero.

Nine months later, names are being sought by the Clark County School District for three new campuses set to open in 2019. The application process closes today.

One of those submissions was spearheaded by two teachers, Christine Virgen and Amberley Dorrell. Dorrell served with Hartfield in the National Guard.

“He was one of the first leaders in the military that I had,” said Dorrell, a fourth-grade teacher. “He was my father figure, my disciplinarian.”

“And it's just not me, it’s all of us,” she said. “His soldiers were his family.”

Virgen had not met Hartfield. But after the shooting — which killed 57 others — she said, she saw how much his death affected her friend, so she approached her about the idea. A school named after him could help heal the community, she said.

Subsequently, Dorrell contacted Hartfield’s wife, Veronica, his son, Ayzayah, and daughter, Savannah. They blessed the effort and it moved forward.

On the website ipetitions.com, they set up a profile with a picture of a smiling Hartfield in his military uniform, a waterfall providing a backdrop. “I would like for one of these schools to be named after Charleston Hartfield,” Dorrell wrote.

Soon, the signatures started to tally. The goal of 1,000 signatures was doubled, and then some. Supporters took to the platform and extended encouragement.

“Just brilliant in every way possible,” one wrote. "This school will have a true meaning and backstory behind it. Please, please, please make this happen!”

“Please consider honoring this military veteran and civil servant hero by naming the new elementary schools after him,” wrote another. “It would honor all of us Nevadans.”

After the application process closes, a CCSD name committee will choose nine submissions. Applicants in the near future will have the chance to pitch the names in front of it, before a decision is made.

Hartfield was “a great leader," said Dorrell, recalling his big personality, tall stature, and his Stetson hats. “He led by example. He would get in the trench … he supported his soldiers. He was compassionate, but firm. The Army is based on integrity and doing the right thing, and that was him.”

In a letter to his wife, who survived the shooting and had also sprung to action when bullets began raining, Hartfield spoke about how he didn’t want to be remembered as a hero, or something he was not.

“He was the most humble person I’ve ever met in my life,” Dorrell said. “I’m not doing this for how he touched my life, I’m doing this for how he touched everyone’s life.”