Gun found at school had been reported as stolen

Trial of Meade pupil delayed

charges against another dismissed for now

January 11, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A loaded gun taken from a pupil at Meade Middle School was found to be a stolen weapon, county prosecutors revealed yesterday at a Circuit Court hearing for two 12-year-olds arrested and charged as juveniles in connection with the incident.

The hearing had been scheduled to review home detention arrangements for the boys and to try them as juveniles on charges of possession of a deadly weapon on school property and gun possession.

But the trial did not take place. One boy's case was postponed, and charges against the other were dismissed for now over the issue of when he was alleged to have been seen with the weapon.

The gun had been reported stolen nearly a year ago, adding the circumstances of that crime to the police investigation of how the weapon ended up at school Dec. 9.

Because the man from whom it was taken had not known the gun's serial number, police and federal authorities tracing the weapon found in the school did not learn until Friday that it was stolen. The owner told police he bought the 9 mm semiautomatic more than a decade ago and did not known when it was taken.

Authorities said the gun was found in the pocket of a seventh-grade boy in a school bathroom. A second seventh-grader is suspected of bringing it to school and leaving it in a stall for the first child.

The trial of the boy accused of having the gun in his pocket while in the lavatory was postponed until Jan. 24 so that his lawyers, Mark A. Darden III and Evelyn O. A. Darden, could review new information. The boy remains on home detention and has been expelled from school, officials said.

Circuit Judge Pamela L. North dismissed the charges against the second boy after being told by Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson that while pupils did not see the boy with the gun Dec. 9, as initial reports indicated, they have told investigators they saw him with it as early as Nov. 19.

Bergeson's attempt to change the charges to reflect the earlier date were blocked by the boy's lawyer, Nelson R. Stewart. Bergeson said he will file new charges to reflect the date change.

That boy has been suspended, and a hearing was scheduled for today at the Board of Education on whether he will be expelled.

Investigators said a pupil told a teacher that he saw a handgun in a bathroom stall. The teacher left his classroom across the hall, saw the gun and told some boys -- including the one found soon after with the weapon -- that they were not to enter, investigators said.

The teacher returned to his classroom and called for Principal M. Jacques Smith to meet him, officials said. When the teacher went to show Smith the gun, it was not on the floor. But the boy who had been in the hall was in the lavatory, authorities said. Asked repeatedly to give them the weapon, he took it out of his pocket and gave it to school officials, authorities said.

Mark Darden said his client entered the bathroom to use it -- not to get a gun. When the boy found the weapon, he picked it up to bring it to the office, the lawyer told the court.

"He as a 12-year-old child was left to make an adult decision of whether to make the bathroom safe and take this gun to the office," Darden said.

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