View Full Version : Report of teen with pistol sparks lockdown at high school

11-30-2007, 12:32 PM


SARASOTA COUNTY -- Deputies armed with shotguns and assault rifles searched Riverview High School on Thursday as they investigated a student's report that a boy flashed a gun and said he was "sick and tired of what's going on."

The hourlong search of the campus ended with no sign of the teenager or the pistol.

The investigation had started with school officials chasing down a campus rumor about 10:45 a.m.

But in the evening, officials said they had no reason to doubt the credibility of the Riverview sophomore who reported the incident.

Authorities are still looking for the boy, who they describe as a white male, between 17 and 19 years old, about 6 feet tall, 180 pounds with brown hair and some facial hair. He has a silver stud tongue piercing and two large, hollow black rings in his earlobes.

The two boys spoke in a hallway at the school about 10:30 a.m., but the Riverview campus was not locked down for more than an hour.

The delay came because it took time for word of the incident to travel to school officials, who then had to chase it down, said sheriff's spokesman Lt. Chuck Lesaltato.

"We feel it was handled appropriately," Lesaltato said. "It took time to verify if the rumors were true and once they located the witnesses they have to do a lot of verifications before they put a school like Riverview on lock down."

After the boy reportedly showed him the gun, the witness told a friend, who then passed the story on to several other students. The third group then went and told a school nurse, who told a school resource officer.

The resource officer interviewed the witness, and by the time Principal Linda Nook decided to lock down the school, it was about 11:30.

But district officials say they decided to wait another 15 minutes because it was lunch time, and more than 700 of the school's 2,500 students were at lunch, scattered all over campus.

Rumors continued to fly by cell phone during the lockdown, during which some students were allowed to send text messages to their parents.

Other students said they had cell phones taken away for doing the same thing.

"All of them wanted to call their moms but they had no way to do that," said parent Melissa Fash, whose son's phone was confiscated after he gave it to a girl who was crying and wanted to call her parents.

Meanwhile, about two dozen deputies went door-to-door and guarded entrances. Some students say officers burst into their classes holding rifles.

"There were cops everywhere I looked," said Jacqueline Aguero, who is in the 10th grade. "I just started crying."

Other students said their classes were visited by a pair of detectives who asked a few questions and left.

Parents started showing up at the school by the dozen to line side streets waiting to hear some word from their children.

"You hear about things like Columbine and your first reaction as a parent is to go to your children," said Pam Mollek, whose 14-year-old daughter called her from inside the school.

The school lifted the lockdown shortly after 1 p.m. and allowed students to go home early with their parents.

On Thursday evening, sheriff's officials said they still did not know whether the boy who reportedly had the gun was a student at the school or not.

Deputies were watching hours of videotape from about 50 surveillance cameras on campus, looking for clues. The hallway conversation between the two teenagers had occurred near a camera, but was not captured on tape.

"For me, the best thing is at the end of the day everyone went home safe," said Nook, the school's principal.

Nook said the school will have additional sheriff's deputies on campus today to help with security.