Short of finding some hidden manifesto that has yet to emerge, it is unlikely we will ever fully understand what motivated Dennis Ronald Marx in his June 6 assault on the Forsyth County Courthouse.
In the days since the fatal attack the picture of Marx that has emerged portrays him as someone increasingly frustrated with the courts and law enforcement, upon which he blamed problems in his personal life.
There had to be more than that. There are many willing to blame the legal system for personal problems, but they don’t go on the attack with obvious intent to maim and kill.
Though Marx will provide those who study such violence with research material for years to come, we may never completely understand. Perhaps it is better that we don’t. Perhaps we don’t need to see the inner workings of a mind that can use a string of brushes with the law on drugs and weapons charges as justification for wanton death and destruction.
Mental illness. Societal rage. Inhumane evil. Who knows, and does it really matter now anyway?
What does matter is that the plot failed. And it failed because the men and women of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s office did their jobs in incredible and exemplary fashion. They put to work the hours of training, the years of experience, the time spent preparing for an attack of this magnitude, and they stopped the carnage before it ever got started.
From the first minutes of the assault to the final press conference by Sheriff Duane Piper hours after it happened, it is hard to imagine any law enforcement agency anywhere conducting itself in a more professional manner.
Deputy Daniel Rush, a veteran of the agency and a courthouse security specialist, immediately recognized the assault for what it was and took action to stop it, putting his life in danger as he did and ultimately being shot by Marx.
The word hero gets bandied about too often these days. In Rush’s case, it’s well deserved.
But he wasn’t the only one. Other members of the department were quick to step forward and stop the threat. In the end, Marx lay dead, but all others were safe. Had local officers not been prepared, the death toll could have been staggering.
There is little doubt that there are people alive today who would not have been had Marx not been quickly stopped.
While Marx’ violent exercise in anarchy was quickly ended, it will not be without impact. The community will long suffer from the knowledge that “Yes, it can happen here.” The officers will face the nightmares of those terrifying minutes that seemed like hours. For Rush, physical wounds will have to heal. For those in the court system, there will be the nagging concern, “What about next time.”
We can only pray there is never a next time, and that if there is, those with the responsibility to protect and serve will be as well prepared to do so as was the case a week ago.