GREENFIELD — A 16-year-old boy who took a loaded handgun to Greenfield-Central High School Tuesday morning was quickly apprehended because someone had contacted the school to warn officials.
The boy was taken into custody minutes before school began in what officials say was a textbook example on how anonymous tips and the presence of police officers in schools help defuse potentially violent situations.
The boy intended to sell the gun after school, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said after police interviewed him. While that may have made the incident seem less serious, the incident nevertheless left staff, students and parents shaken.
The incident was over in a matter of minutes, Principal Steve Bryant said. A school staff member received a message shortly after 8 a.m. that a student had a gun in his possession.
That staff member immediately notified Gary O’Neal, the school’s police officer. O’Neal looked up the student’s class schedule to see what class he’d be heading to and soon located him in the hallway.
The boy was taken to the assistant principal’s office. He did not resist.
“I told him I needed to pat him down, and I found the weapon in his back pocket,” said O’Neal, the school resource officer for 16 years. The weapon was a .22-caliber handgun.
The Greenfield Police Department was called immediately, and officers took possession of the handgun and brought the boy to the police department for questioning. It took only about 20 minutes from start to finish, O’Neal said, and the boy was apprehended without incident. School started as usual at 8:30 a.m.
“My understanding is, he took the gun to school and he was going to sell it to somebody after school,” Jester said. “There was never any threat made.”
The handgun was loaded with one round.
The boy was taken to a juvenile detention facility in Delaware County. All juveniles facing criminal charges in Hancock County are sent to Delaware County.
Jester doesn’t know who the boy wanted to sell the gun to, nor whether the gun would be sold at school or off school grounds. He said the boy was cooperative while being questioned. The case is still under investigation, Jester added.
Charges against the boy could come today, Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin said, but those charges might not be made public. Griffin said he will be waiting for a recommendation from the county’s juvenile probation department on what kind of charge to file, and unless it’s filed as an adult charge, the information will be kept confidential.
“There is no public disclosure of juvenile delinquency proceedings,” Griffin said.
Regardless, the student could be expelled from school. While Bryant did not comment on what the student’s discipline would be, the G-CHS student handbook states that bringing a deadly weapon to school is means for expulsion.
While few students and staff knew what was happening at the time, an email to parents two hours later brought a deluge of calls. Some parents came to school as well.
Bryant said parents sent messages to their children via Twitter, and by shortly after 10 a.m., the school was buzzing with the news. While Bryant had planned to announce details of the incident to students during lunch periods, he chose instead to make a schoolwide announcement shortly before 11 a.m.
“It’s safe because we have a school resource officer,” Bryant said afterward. “It’s safe because we have methods in which people can call in anonymous tips.”
Bryant spent time during the school’s lunch periods chatting with students, many of whom said they were shocked over what happened but still felt safe.
“That’s good somebody turned them in, because it doesn’t usually happen,” said senior Handen Kissee. “Some people are too shy to turn them in.”
And while senior Blaine Bener acknowledged the number of school shootings throughout the country, it was still a shock a student would bring a gun to G-C.
“I wouldn’t say we’re safe from it, but I don’t expect it to happen here,” he said. “I just feel it’s a friendly town. Nothing really bad happens here.”
Not everybody felt safe, however. A couple of parents came by to pick up their children from school.
“I’m going to work on taking him out of here completely,” said parent Erica Abshier, who was taking 15-year-old Christian Fields home. “I have major concerns. They can’t even let you know if the kid is coming back to school or not.”
The school has an anonymous tip line for tips on drugs, weapons, bullying and more. Assistant Principal Dan Jack said that parents and students are much more in tune to threats of weapons these days since school shootings have been happening across the country in recent years.
G-C Superintendent Linda Gellert said Tuesday was an “assurance that the system works.”
Bryant added that the school did its best to let parents know quickly after the incident. School staff members have been going to meetings and training for years how to handle threats of violence.
“We’re not going to pat down every student who comes through the door. We’re not going to install metal detectors,” Bryant said. “Anonymous tips are critical.”