Thursday, May 20th, 2010
Police find loaded gun on school grounds
Two pupils suspended; face expulsion
By Margie Wuebker
Two Marion Local High School juniors were suspended Wednesday morning in connection with bringing a loaded handgun on school property.
A truck driver contacted St. Marys Police shortly after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to report he passed a 2005 Pontiac and spotted what appeared to be a handgun in the lap of a front-seat passenger. The sighting reportedly occurred at the intersection of McKinley and Spruce streets in St. Marys.
Based on the vehicle description and license plate number provided by the truck driver, authorities determined the car contained Marion Local students likely heading to Mercer County following classes at Tri-Star Career Compact.
"This caused alarm and rightly so," Chief Gregory Foxhoven told The Daily Standard. "We actively pursue reports like this because we don't know what could happen."
Notification quickly went to the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, officials at Memorial High School in St. Marys and Marion Local, according to Foxhoven. "We did not know their intent at the time," he said.
Marion school officials and a sheriff's deputy located the car in the parking lot and removed the .22-caliber pistol. A St. Marys officer also responded to the scene.
The driver and the front-seat passenger were suspended for the remainder of the school year and sent home with their parents. Superintendent Carl Metzger wouldn't identify the students. He expects to convene an expulsion hearing next week to determine whether the boys will be permanently barred from the school.
Metzger said the disciplinary action taken at Marion Local carries over to Tri-Star.
School officials continue to investigate any involvement by two female students riding in the back seat of the car at the time. No disciplinary action has been taken.
Foxhoven indicated the gun, which belonged to the front-seat passenger, had a loaded magazine but no bullet in the chamber. "For all intense purposes, it is still a loaded gun," he said.
The front-seat passenger, who reportedly owns the gun, did not offer any explanation to authorities. He is not old enough to have a concealed carry permit.
According to Foxhoven, only law enforcement officers and concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry a loaded weapon in a vehicle.
The report is being forwarded to Auglaize County Prosecutor Edwin Pierce this morning for review and possible filing of charges.
Foxhoven believes charges are "highly probable" for the gun holder, including misdemeanors such as improper handling of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon. There is also the possibility of a felony charge - illegal conveyance of a firearm on school property.
Metzger praised the work of high school principal Mike Pohlman and law enforcement officers in handling the situation. Pohlman immediately placed the building on a code yellow alert, meaning everyone had to stay in classrooms and work areas. The alert remained in affect for more than 40 minutes.
"A lot of our students are hunters and accustomed to handling guns," Metzger said. "The message in all of this is never bring those guns onto school property. Everything was done in accordance with school policy to protect all 915 Marion students."