ROCK HILL, S.C. -- The owner of a Rock Hill store said Saturday he had nothing to do with the placement of a gun ad in a newspaper story about the Connecticut school shooting -- and was shocked to see it.
The ad for a pre-Christmas sale at Nichols Store fills more than a quarter of page 5A of The Herald of Rock Hill, and shows handguns and assault rifles.
The page is dominated by the story about the shootings in Sandy Hook, CT, that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at the school. The gunman and his mother also died.
The ad appears just below a photo of four people running from gunfire.
“There's no words for that,” said resident Sandi McCann when she saw the ad in the article. “Sick, sick.. somebody was not using their head.”
Rob Laney, another resident who works in advertising, understood how ads can sometimes get placed inappropriately – but he wasn’t willing to give the editors a pass.
“In terms of it being insensitive,” he said, “it’s definitely insensitive.”
The owner of Nichols Store, Darren Nichols, told NBC Charlotte that he contacted the Herald's editor after hearing about the ad from customers and on the store's Facebook page.
"I want your viewers to know the ad that was placed on the same page of the article about the shooting had no way shape or form had anything to do with us," he said Saturday. "If I could have pulled the ad, I would have."
Nichols said he was so upset about the shooting Friday, he immediately lowered the store's flag to half-staff. He said he had no way of knowing where the ad would be placed in the paper.
“The ads we do for the local paper have to be submitted days in advance,” he said. “We don't have say-so on placement, but where it was placed is… disturbing to me.”
The Herald apologized about the placement of the ad in its online edition Saturday afternoon, saying the ad was placed Thursday, before the shootings even took place.
"But we at The Herald should have recognized the unfortunate juxtaposition of the advertisement with stories and a photograph about gun violence,” said Herald editor Paul Osmundson in a statement to NBC Charlotte.
"Multiple editors worked on the page and should have noticed the problem. We all made a terrible mistake, and for that I apologize."