A 20-year-old man was in custody today after being picked up near a Harford County high school carrying several loaded handguns and ammunition. He allegedly offered to "do away with" some teachers there.
The man, who lives in Joppa, was taken into custody two blocks from the Joppatowne High School. County sheriff's deputies found the firearms and the bullets on the man, according to school officials. The man has not yet been charged.
Another gun belonging to him was found near the school, students said, but that could not be confirmed by the sheriff's department.
"He was heavily armed, but we don't know why," said a school system official.
The man graduated from the high school two years ago, said Doris Williams, the school principal. His actions today, however, could not initially be linked with his having attended Joppatowne.
Shortly after the man was taken into custody, the more than 800 students were sent home for the day. School was scheduled to reopen on time tomorrow.
According to Albert Seymour, spokesman for the Harford County school system, the man approached students outside the school who were participating in a physical education class at about 8:30 a.m.
Joe Barrett, a junior who was in the gym class, said the man walked toward the group of students and pulled out a box of firecrackers.
" 'This will scare them, and if that doesn't this will,' " Barrett said the man told the students. The man then pulled out one of the weapons from underneath the bulky coat he was wearing, Barrett said.
He walked up to the students and said, "Do you have any teachers you want done away with?" Seymour said.
At that point, the man detonated an M-80, a large firecracker. Another one of the devices was also set off, Seymour said. Authorities were immediately notified.
The man ran from the property of the high school down Joppa Farm Road and was captured near a High's Dairy Store.
Students were dismissed from classes while police with bomb-sniffing dogs searched the school and the grounds.
Bob Thomas, deputy state fire marshal, said a caller to the county emergency operations center said other explosives may have been left on the high school grounds.
It was not known whether more M-80s or other devices were found.
After authorities declared the school safe, teachers and administrators were allowed to return to the school by early afternoon.