MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — An 8-year-old third grade student at Lakeview Academy in Milledgeville brought a loaded 9 mm pistol into a classroom Friday morning and while preparing for a reading class, the handgun discharged, local authorities say.
No one was injured in the incident, which happened as a classroom teacher was reading a book to other third-graders at the school shortly before 8:30 a.m. at the school located on Brandy Road, said Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Scott Deason.
Immediately after the shooting, school personnel telephoned sheriff’s office Lt. Gail Hollis, who is in charge of the school resource officer division, and informed her that the shooting had occurred in a third grade classroom occupied by several students, Deason said.
Hollis and several other deputies quickly responded to the school, Deason told The Union-Recorder in a telephone interview.
Deason said deputies extracted a bullet fragment from the floor of the classroom after the handgun went off.
“All of the students were moved to another classroom and none of the children nor the teacher was hurt in this incident,” Deason said.
The sheriff’s official said the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office was notified about the incident, which is being investigated as a juvenile matter, Deason said.
The student involved in the incident, meanwhile, was taken to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office where the child and his mother talked with Lt. Nick Goddard.
“They questioned the juvenile in the presence of his mother,” Deason said, noting the third grade student could not explain how the handgun got into his book bag. “The mother also stated she didn’t know how the gun got into her son’s book bag.”
Deason explained that the child involved in the classroom shooting incident arrived to school a little late Friday.
“Fortunately the class was at the front of the classroom on the carpet sitting and listening to the teacher read a book to them,” Deason said. “The child came to the rear of the classroom to his desk and put his book bag down. While getting stuff out of his book bag, the gun accidentally discharged into the tile floor.”
The handgun, which was described as a Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol, reportedly was stolen in a residential burglary that happened back in October in Baldwin County, Deason said.
The gun had 16 rounds in it before the single shot echoed in the classroom.
The sheriff’s official said deputies notified representatives with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice who indicated they would not detain the child involved in the shooting. The child later was released in the custody of his family, but with the stipulation that the child wear an ankle monitor.
“As of this time, he (the child) is not allowed back onto any school property and until the case goes through the juvenile court, and of course, a tribunal hearing that school system officials will conduct, that will stay in effect until there is some resolution,” Deason said.
As of Friday afternoon, authorities still were trying to determine who stole the gun and how it ended up in the hands of an 8-year-old child.
“We’re investigating it from there,” Deason said. “It’s still an active investigation.”
Even though school system policy dictates that book bags must be clear or mesh style for students in the high school and at the middle school, there is no such policy for elementary schools in Baldwin County.
In this particular instance, the book bag belonging to the third-grader was made from a solid material, meaning no one could see the items inside.
Baldwin school officials issued the following statement regarding the incident Friday evening.
“The staff at Lakeview Academy responded swiftly and appropriately to resolve this situation. We want all of our families to know that we are committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all of our students and staff. Our parents play a critical role in helping us to keep our schools safe by educating their children that weapons of any type have no place inside our schools. Also, parents must help us to emphasize the importance of students telling a family or a staff member if they hear any information about a weapon at school. In this way, we are all working together to keep our school safe.”
Last month, a 12-year-old elementary student at Midway Hills Academy was charged with possession of a firearm within a school safety zone and disrupting a public school after he brought an unloaded gun, which reportedly belonged to a family friend, to school. The fifth-grade student was later released to the custody of his parents.
“We are currently evaluating our security measures to determine what changes we need make to our current plan. We are also working closely with the Sheriff’s Department and the Milledgeville Police Department to identify additional security measures. As a school district, we will continue to make safety and security our top priority,” said Superintendent Dr. Noris Price in Friday’s statement.