KEARNS — An 11-year-old elementary school student was charged in juvenile court Tuesday with bringing a gun to school and threatening his classmates.
The West Kearns Elementary student was taken to a juvenile detention center and charged with one count of possession of deadly weapon on school property and three counts of aggravated assault, Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said.
The Kearns incident, as well as another gun-related school scare in Ogden, comes as lawmakers in Utah and throughout the United States examine school security and gun ownership laws in the wake of last week's shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Gov. Gary Herbert responded to the Connecticut shooting, saying he intends to meet with the state attorney general and the state superintendent of public instruction to assess school security protocols and evaluate ways to ensure the safety of students.
"This was a senseless tragedy — for the children, for their families, for the community, for our nation," Herbert said in a prepared statement. "I believe all productive policy discussions should be driven by facts, and we are still learning what the facts are as the investigation moves forward."
Two sixth-grade students at West Kearns Elementary told their teacher about 3 p.m. Monday that a classmate had a gun. A student also reported that the boy brandished the weapon and threatened to use it if she told school officials.
"He pulled out a gun, and he put it to my head — me and my friend — (and) said he was going to kill us," Isabelle Rios said. "I told him I was going to tell, but he said, ‘If you tell, I'm going to kill you.'"
The girl said the incident took place during morning recess, but she did not alert her teacher until the end of the school day.
Horlsey said the .22-caliber handgun belonged to an extended family member who had been staying with the student's parents and brought the gun into the home. The family member had recently left the home and apparently left the gun behind.
The student claimed that he brought the gun to the school, 4620 W. 4900 South, to protect himself and his friends in the event of a school shooting like the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Horsley said.
The handgun was not loaded. Both the gun and ammunition were found in the boy's backpack.
Horsley declined to comment on whether the student's parents were aware that the gun was in their home. He said the parents have been cooperative during the investigation.
The criminal investigation, he said, is ongoing and more charges could potentially be brought against the student.
"It was a very potentially deadly situation," Horsley said. "We're very pleased with the outcome."
Following the incident, school officials posted a message on the district's Facebook page alerting parents that a student had taken a gun to school. The message encouraged anyone with questions to contact their school principal or the district office.
"Once again, we applaud the courage of the students who reported this and the efforts of the teacher and principal whose prompt actions alleviated what could have been a more dangerous situation," district officials wrote. "Counselors will continue to be provided district-wide for any student, teacher or patron who needs those services."
Several parents expressed concern for their children's safety at the school Tuesday, including some, like Ashlee Gordon, who removed their children from school.
"He's my only kid," Gordon said of her 7-year-old son. "It's heartbreaking to even think that he might not come home."
The fear of guns on school campuses also resulted in another Utah school increasing security Tuesday because of an alleged threat.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office learned of a possible gun threat at Bonneville High School. Several students were interviewed, but investigators ultimately determined the threat was nothing more than "a rumor that has spread through social media," according to the sheriff's office.13 comments on this story
"When contacted, not a single student can name a subject who has stated they were bringing a gun to school," the sheriff's office stated.
Nevertheless, security at Bonneville was increased Tuesday.
Contributing: Pat Reavy, Shara Park