Student brings loaded gun to Elgin elementary school
By Janelle Walker For Sun-Times Media December 12, 2013 10:40AM
Police vehicles lined up Thursday morning outside Gifford Elementary School on Clifton Avenue in Elgin where a student reportedly brought a loaded handgun to school. | Janelle Walker for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2014 12:53PM
ELGIN — Police charged a family friend with weapons violations after a 7-year-old boy brought a loaded gun he had found inside his home to Harriet Gifford Elementary School on Thursday morning.
Another student spotted the gun inside a backpack and notified school staff, who seized the backpack and called police.
Police said late Thursday afternoon that Rashaad L. Byrd, 27, of the 200 block of Highpoint, Romeoville, had been in possession of the 9 mm handgun while he was staying in an apartment in Elgin with the boy and his relatives. The boy had found the weapon and brought it to school that morning.
The Kane County State Attorney’s Office approved charging Byrd with felony unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, felony not having a firearm owner’s identification card and misdemeanor child endangerment. Byrd was taken into custody and was to appear in bond court Friday morning.
The child who reported the gun may have saved a life because he told teachers what he saw and felt safe enough to do so, said School District U46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt following a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Elgin Police Department.
No one was hurt in the incident.
Police said they were called to the 510-pupil elementary school at 240 S. Clifton Ave., on the city’s near-west side, shortly after 10 a.m. by a school secretary who said the backpack with a possible gun inside was secured inside the office.
School personnel did not open the backpack but called police to look inside, said Police Chief Jeff Swoboda.
Once police determined it was a real gun, “Elgin police officers immediately responded and in conjunction with school officials proceeded to secure the school building,” according to a police department statement. “A search of the recovered backpack revealed a loaded 9 mm handgun. The 7-year-old male student, who the backpack belonged to, was immediately brought to the school office to speak with staff and police officers.”
Police set up a perimeter around the school and used K-9 units to search for any other weapons.
During the 90-minute search, the school was put in a “hold-in-place,” which allows students to continue classes without disruption, Heiderscheidt said. Students were shielded from dogs as the search was ongoing and moved to another room if the dogs — which came from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Kane County — were brought into a classroom, he said.
Kindergarten students were allowed to leave the building at the end of their school day during the hold-in-place event, he added.
No more weapons were found in the search. Police cleared the school shortly before noon, and the juvenile was transported to the police department, according to police.
It was the second incident in the past eight months in which a student in School District U46 brought a gun to school. Two high school students were arrested in April on charges connected to a shotgun brought to Gifford Street School, an alternative high school in Elgin.
A statement from Patrick Mogge, director of school and community relations for School District U46, noted the quick action by school staff.
“Staff took immediate action and secured the backpack in the main office and called the police,” the statement said. “The Elgin Police Department identified it as a loaded handgun.”
“The police are handling the investigation,” Mogge said. “We have not identified threats or intention to harm anyone. No injuries occurred. The staff did a great job of taking immediate action.”
U46 elementary teachers do talk to students about safety and bullying, Heiderscheidt added. It is a sign of the trust placed in staff that the student felt he should report the gun, he said.
U46 is still determining if any action, including suspension or expulsion, may be needed in this instance, Heiderscheidt said. However, because of his age, it is unlikely that the pupil would be charged with a crime, Swoboda said.