Hastings Middle School student charged after flashing gun at school
Hastings Middle School was locked down Monday morning from 10:30 a.m. to a little after noon following an incident involving a student with a handgun.
Police were called to the school on a report of a male student who had displayed a handgun in the doorway of a classroom on the second floor of the school.
The school was soon in full lockdown mode with several police and sheriff's cars at the entrances of the building.
As the word spread, parents pulled into the parking lot.
Mark Dembroski was there early on.
"My son texted me that there was a kid in his class with a gun," he said. "I don't know if that means his class or the school." A later text confirmed the incident was happening in his son's class.
"I work at home and live close, so I could get here fast," Dembroski said.
Another parent, Heather Hutter received a text from her son.
"You need to get here," he wrote.
No one was allowed into the school ... or out.
As the word spread, more parents gathered in the parking lot at the school, quietly talking, quietly waiting, cell phones in hand, for word of what was going on inside the building.
It was an almost two-hour wait. Little bits of information came from various sources, mostly from students inside texting on their phones. Two police officers, one with an M-16 rifle, according to one parent, walked over to Pinecrest Elementary School. Pinecrest, too, was on lockdown because of its close proximity to the middle school. At one point, middle school teacher Ashley Walker, standing outside with the parents because she wasn't being allowed to go into the school talked to Linde Raway in the office and told the parents that the school would be locked down a little longer but that all the students were safe in their rooms with the teachers. "They're probably discussing things," she told the parents. "And they're unsure if they're going
to release the students for the day."
Soon parents spotted kids in the lunch room and began to express some relief. Police Chief Mike McMenomy pulled up in front of the school and went inside.
One of the parents walked over to a police officer and then was seen hurrying toward the front door of the school. The other parents soon followed.
McMenomy and School District 200 Superintendent Tim Collins joined the parents in front of the building and gave a short press conference to the reporters gathered and answered questions for both reporters and parents.
McMenomy read the statement: "On Monday April 5, 2010, at 10:32 a.m. Hastings Police Department officers were dispatched to the Hastings Middle School on a call of a male student who had displayed a handgun in the doorway of a classroom on the second floor of the school.
Hastings Police had a school resource officer at the middle school, and the middle school went into lockdown mode. A perimeter was established and a search for the student was initiated. The student was located and attempted to run from the building at 10:48 a.m. A handgun was recovered. The 14-year-old student is an eighth-grade student at the middle school; he was treated at Regina Medical Center for a minor hand injury before being interviewed and booked into the Dakota County juvenile detention facility in Hastings. A security sweep of the whole middle school was done by police, and completed with no other students or suspects located."
"We just raised the lockdown," he added. "And students will be going to lunch and returning to their classes."
He said he was pleased with how the situation was handled, by the students, staff and police.
"Everything went the way it was supposed to," he said. The students have lockdown drills several times a year.
Collins reiterated what Principal Mark Zuzek had told the students and what McMenomy said.
"I was very proud of the students and the staff who handled things so calmly," he said. By chance, Collins was in the middle school during the incident and was locked down with everyone else.
He added that all the classrooms were searched and that the police and school officials would be talking with the boy's friends - to see why this happened.
"You all know about as much as law enforcement," he said. "The investigation is taking place right now."
Collins also told the parents they were best at judging whether their son or daughter should go home, but the school day would go on as normally as possible. He said there would not be a large counseling session, but counseling would be given to individual students as staff (or parents) saw the need.
Austin LaDoux, an eighth-grade student, gave an eyewitness account of what happened in the classroom.
The student with the gun, identified as Joe Jarvis, an eighth-grade student, was called down to the office early in the morning.
Austin said the call came as the morning announcements were being read from about 7:45 a.m. to 7:55 a.m., but he didn't know why.
The incident with the gun happened in Austin's fourth-period science class. Jarvis is in the science class, sits at the same table as Austin.
"Joe wasn't there at the start of class," Austin said. "He showed up about five to 10 minutes into the class. He had a gun.
" 'Get the f--- down,' he hollered, and he was waving a gun around," Austin said.
Austin said his teacher, Mike Rapatz, talked to Jarvis, saying calmly, "Is there anything I can do for you, Joe?"
"No. No. No," Austin said Jarvis answered.
"He looked frustrated and mad," Austin added. "Our teacher kept trying to persuade him not to do anything stupid. And then he (Jarvis) turned and walked out the door."
The teacher locked the door, Austin said, and had all the students get behind the lab tables.
A woman in the room called 911, he said, as his teacher was talking to Jarvis.
"She hid behind a counter and called," he said. He didn't know if the woman was a teacher but said she often helped some students with their work.
"(Officer) Tim Connell came by, Austin said.
"He said 'police' and knocked on the door. He told us more police were on the way."
Rapatz again locked the door and had the students get back behind the tables.
Someone shook the door violently. Austin said he didn't know for sure who it was, but suspected it was Jarvis.
"I was kind of scared," Austin admitted. "I was sort of freaked out."
A few minutes later, Jarvis came back, Austin said, broke the window next to the door, reached in and opened the door.
"The teacher ran to the front and stood in front of the classroom. He
asked him, 'Joe, can I help you?' Joe looked frustrated, according to Austin, and ran again, and the teacher stayed in the front of the classroom in case Joe came back.
"The police came by and we heard some yelling. Someone hollered, 'Freeze.' We heard a tussle, and I guess that's when they got him."
Austin was calm as he came out of the building, calm as he talked about the incident a few hours later.
"I think we all stayed calm because our teacher was calm," he said.
He said at first he thought this was a drill, but when he looked into his teacher's eyes, he "knew it wasn't a drill."
He said he knew for sure it wasn't a drill when he saw the blood on the floor by the door. He said he saw three other doors with the windows next to them broken in.
He said while the incident was unfolding, he was just hoping nothing bad would happen.
"Oh, yes," Austin said. " I'm not afraid. They said at school that it's best just to go on. And the police told us everything's going to be alright."
The investigation is continuing, and police and school staff have asked students with any knowledge of what led up to the incident to please talk to them.