2 girls arrested after gun is found at school

Police say 13-year-old wanted `to finish' dispute with another child

March 09, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A 13-year-old girl was arrested yesterday after police said she took a loaded semiautomatic handgun to her Southwest Baltimore middle school, apparently "to finish" a dispute with another youngster.

The girl showed the gun to a classmate, and word leaked to a handful of pupils at Diggs-Johnson Middle School near Carroll Park. An adult hall monitor heard the story and called Baltimore school police.

An officer found the weapon in a locker of a friend of the girl, another 13-year-old girl who was also arrested. Both were charged as juveniles with gun possession, and officials said both girls will be expelled.

School police Chief Leonard Hamm said the girl told investigators that she "had a dispute with another student, and she was going to finish it. She was going to take care of it today."

The school has 700 pupils.

Hamm cautioned that the girl said little else to detectives and did not name the person involved in the argument. "She could have just found this thing and brought it to school," he said.

The girls were taken to the Northern District's juvenile holding facility. It could not be learned yesterday whether they were released to their parents or held until a court hearing today.

It was the second time this year that a child has been caught with a gun inside a city school. Officials said a young student was arrested in the first case, but details could not be learned.

The number of gun incidents in city schools has decreased. Forty students were expelled for taking firearms to school in 1997-1998, compared with 14 last year.

Yesterday's incident comes little more than a week after Kayla Rolland, 6, was shot and killed by a classmate, also 6, inside her elementary school classroom in Mount Morris Township, Mich. -- the latest in a series of school shootings across the nation.

The principal of Diggs-Johnson could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.

Hamm said the girl took the .22-caliber Sterling semiautomatic to the school on Herkimer Street and gave it to the friend, who put it in her locker. Word eventually got to the hall monitor, then to the principal and finally to police.

The officer assigned to the school was in the system's main office on North Avenue when the call came in. He went to the building and found the gun in the locker, loaded with five bullets.

Hamm said yesterday that the girl "didn't get close" to carrying out her alleged threat. The chief praised other children for telling the hall monitor about the gun and the quick police action that followed.

"Somebody did the right thing," Hamm said. "What we want to do is create a climate in our schools in which students have an opportunity to feel safe and to pass on information. It is key to having a safe school."

But a parent of a 12-year-old girl, who did not want to be identified, said he is angry that school officials did not notify parents of the incident. He said he heard of it when his daughter got home.

"She's saying she's scared to go back there tomorrow," the man said. "They want to keep it hush-hush. Something like this you don't keep hush-hush."

Hamm said investigators believe the girl obtained the weapon from a house on Pennsylvania Avenue, possibly that of a relative. City police were looking into that but had nothing definitive last night.

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