Investigators solve mystery of loaded firearm found on PES campus last month
The case of a loaded gun found on Patterson Elementary’s campus has been solved after parents discovered the weapon missing and that their child had apparently taken it to school.
Patterson Police Chief Jason Strickland confirmed Monday that parents of a “very young” Patterson Elementary student discovered their gun was missing. The parents reported the missing weapon to authorities Sunday night and the subsequent investigation solved the case of the gun found on campus February 8.
The name of the student and the parents has not been releases since the child is a juvenile. Under Georgia law, names of juveniles cannot be released.
Strickland said the parents have “been very cooperative” with the investigation and “appear to have had the gun secured.”
“We don’t think there was any malicious intent on the part of the parents and we do not think they recklessly endangered their child,” said Strickland.
The parents will not be charged in the incident according to the chief.
The student may face discipline in accordance with the school handbook, but that had not been confirmed with school officials prior to The Times’ deadline. The student handbook’s policy on weapons calls for up to a one year expulsion from school under the system’s zero tolerance policy, though the expulsion could be altered under a tribunal process with the superintendent making the final determination.
The police chief said one of the parents noticed the weapon was missing and discovered the holster — without the gun — in their child’s room.
“The parent was about to report the gun stolen,” said the chief. “When we received
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the description, it all came together that it was the gun that was found on campus.”
School superintendent Dara Bennett expressed relief the case has been solved, but also urges parents to be extra diligent with their firearms.
“We are very thankful that the mystery has been solved, but at the same time, this incident calls for us all to learn from the situation,” Bennett said.
Bennett asks all parents to keep their weapons securely locked up and away from their children.
“We all need to be sure that we keep our children and schools safe by properly locking up guns and keeping them away from the hands of young, innocent children,” said Bennett.
The superintendent says that administration at Patterson Elementary continues to work to ensure safety procedures are in place to keep the school safe.
The resolution of the case follows an intense investigation spanning the last three weeks.
Patterson Police Department called in agents with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to assist with the investigation in an attempt to track down the owner of the gun. While that review did turn up a lead, it did not solve the case.
Strickland also said his department reviewed video evidence from the school, but nothing turned up on the videos.
“We were hoping someone would come forward and help us solve the case and that is what happened,” said Strickland.
An innocent game of “hide-and-seek” among students at Patterson Elementary School turned up the loaded gun that was found on campus.
Students found the gun partially hidden, and when they discovered it was a real gun, they reported it to an adult on campus, who in turn notified both school administrators and law enforcement.
Strickland and School Resource Officer Sidney Dixon conducted a sweep of the entire school as a safety precaution after the incident to make sure the building was safe for students to return to classes the following day. No other weapons or safety concerns were discovered.