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Kearns boy says he took gun to school to defend himself

Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 9:45 p.m. MST

KEARNS — School officials recovered a handgun Monday from an 11-year-old boy who said he brought the weapon to school to protect himself from attacks like the tragic shooting in Connecticut.

Another student, however, said the boy used the gun to threaten her.

Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsley said two sixth-graders at West Kearns Elementary School informed their teacher about 3 p.m. that a classmate had a gun.

The teacher immediately apprehended the student and took him to the office, where administrators contacted police, Horsley said.

The school was not locked down, he said, because the gun was confiscated so quickly.

"If there had been any additional threats or if there had been any concern or indication that our students were still in jeopardy, then a lockdown procedure would have been implemented," Horsley said. "It just would have served to unnecessarily alarm our students."

School officials and police say the .22 caliber handgun was not loaded. The boy also had ammunition with him, but it was unclear Monday whether the bullets were compatible with the firearm.

The boy had both the gun and ammunition in his backpack, officials said.

The student told school administrators he brought the gun to protect himself in case a gunman entered the school, similar to the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Horsley said.

"This student has indicated … this weapon was brought to provide defense for himself and friends," Horsley said. "We're going to be investigating that, and we would encourage parents to talk to their kids."

However, officials also are investigating claims by another student that the boy brandished the weapon during a morning recess period.

One of the students who informed the teacher about the gun, 11-year-old Isabelle Rios, said the boy showed her and some friends the gun at recess, then pointed it at her head.

Isabelle said the boy told her, "If you tell, I'm going to kill you."

Horsley said the district has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to guns at school. The boy will be disciplined by the school district, and criminal charges will be filed for possessing a weapon on school property, he said.

The boy was taken by police to a juvenile detention center Monday night, Horsley said.

School officials also will be investigating whether students may have known about the gun earlier in the day, and if so, why they didn't report it immediately.

The boy's parents were meeting with school officials Monday night and had been cooperative throughout the investigation, Horsley said.

A automated telephone call informing parents what had happened was scheduled to go out at 4:30 p.m. Monday, but students headed home from school began informing their parents before the call could be made, Horsley said. As parents responded, the call was delayed until about 5:30 p.m.

Granite School District also published a statement about the incident on its Facebook page, explaining that counseling services are available for students and teachers. It also urges students who feel unsafe to immediately report their concerns to a trusted adult.

The school district is also available to answer questions for concerned parents.  

Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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