Anonymous message credited in safely ending incident

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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.

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