MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A gun in a 5-year-old boy’s backpack discharged at a Memphis-area elementary school Thursday morning. No one was injured, but the incident infuriated parents.
At 8:21 a.m., police got the call that a gun was fired at Westside Elementary at 3347 Dawn Drive. Officers arrived and took the child into custody.
According to Shelby County Schools spokesman Christian Ross, the boy came to school early and waited in the cafeteria for the opening bell along with numerous other children. The school, with grades K-5, has a little more than 300 students.
The gun was in the boy’s backpack when it discharged, Ross said. School officials immediately confiscated the backpack.
School officials don’t believe the boy meant anyone harm.
“There is no evidence at this time of harmful intent,” SCS officials said in a statement.
Under the state’s zero-tolerance policy on guns in schools, the boy is facing either expulsion or a one-year suspension. Parents can appeal that punishment, but only the superintendent can alter it, Ross said.
Shelby County District Attorney spokesman Vince Higgins said that, if the facts warrant it, parents of children who bring guns to school can be charged with a crime.
Numerous parents — most of them angry — came to the school late Thursday morning to pick up their children.
“Something needs to be done immediately about this. It’s a bad situation,” said Preston Warmsley, whose 10-year-old daughter Camella attends Westside. “This is Frayser. A lot of bad things happen out here and there’s a lot of bad people here. These children don’t have any guidance.”
Brikeria Gilkey, a 10-year-old student at the school, said she heard the gunshot.
“We thought it was a balloon that popped,” she said, as her mother came to pick her up.
Ross said that the school didn’t issue a systemwide alert about the shooting, but will be informing parents via letter.
“Because this was an isolated and controlled situation that occurred before the school day started and did not involve any individual or schoolwide threat, the system was not used. Letters will be going home with students (Thursday) afternoon,” he said.
Students bringing guns to schools isn’t uncommon in Memphis. In one nine-day span in 2010, five gun incidents were reported at or near city schools.
Still, it’s rare that shots are fired on school property.
Quinton Guy, 18, was arrested in March 2012 for firing a gun on the Whitehaven High campus. He said he was trying to stop a fight from getting out of control.
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