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Gun found in child's book bag

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

A student at Swayzee Elementary School unknowingly took a handgun to school Thursday.

The gun was placed inside the backpack by the child’s parent the night before, who was “safely securing the weapon” inside the backpack at the time, according to Grant County Prosecutor Jim Luttrull.

The next morning, the child left early for school for a morning event on Thursday with the gun secured inside the backpack. At approximately 8 a.m., the parent discovered the firearm was missing and recalled they had placed it in their child’s bookbag and neglected to remove it before they left for school.

According to a statement released by Oak Hill United School Corporation, the handgun was discovered in a student’s backpack inside the fifth and sixth grade building after the parent and gun owner notified the school. School officials did not release the grade of the student.

Joel Martin, superintendent of Oak Hill United School Corporation, said the gun was retrieved without any student knowledge.

Luttrull and Swayzee Town Marshall Mark Siler investigated the case following the recovery of the firearm and determined no criminal charges should be pressed.

“In order to press charges, you need a crime. To my and Siler’s understanding, there was no act or intent to commit a crime in this case,” Luttrull said.

Authorities could not confirm whether or not the handgun was loaded while in the possession of the student, but Luttrull said the outcome would be the same in either case.

“I analyzed the case with the corroborated evidence from Swayzee Police and assuming that this was a loaded weapon,” Luttrull said, “I determined that loaded or not, there was no crime.”

Siler said the situation was unusual, and placing the handgun where it could be accessed by children is unsafe in any circumstance.

“It’s a poor decision to place a handgun in a child’s backpack at any time,” Siler said. “Doing so created a bigger issue. No one should be placing a handgun anywhere that children can access it. If it’s not on your person, it needs to be safely secured away from children.”

Martin said they were relieved the situation came to a swift conclusion without drawing any attention away from the classroom Thursday.

“We are so very thankful that we were informed of the situation and that it was able to be dealt with quickly,” Martin said. “Student safety is certainly our biggest priority.”

Martin stated that no student was aware the gun was inside the building at any time, and said the student who transported the firearm to school did not ride the bus but was transported by family members on Friday.