Posted: 6:22 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, 2013

Student admits to bringing fully-loaded gun to Ridgeview Charter School

By Mike Petchenik

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. —

A north Fulton County student arrested for bringing a gun to a Sandy Springs middle school admitted he was in a street gang and that he brought the fully loaded 9 mm handgun to school with a plan to shoot someone, a police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows.

Police arrested the Ridgeview Charter eighth-grader Monday afternoon. Channel 2's Mike Petchenik confirmed the boy is 13 years old.

According to an arrest report Petchenik obtained, two classmates alerted a school official about the gun after the student "had displayed the weapon to them during class and made a statement that he was going to shoot someone at the school."

According to the report, an unarmed assistant principal confronted the student who had the gun in his pants pocket and escorted him to the principal's office. That's when the report said school administrators notified law enforcement.

The report said the student had a gun that was fully loaded, with a bullet in the chamber, and the student had three more loose rounds in his pocket. It said the student also admitted to the officer he was a member of the Hispanic street gang and that he needed a gun because of problems in his neighborhood and "wanted protection."

The revelations have sparked anger from some Ridgeview parents who claim the school district swept the details under the rug.

"That's really sad to me…that she doesn't feel safe to walk around her school," parent Natalie Purhmann said of her eighth-grade daughter. "There are some parents here today who have pulled their kids out, won't put them back in until they get some answers."

Parent Colleen Hartman told Petchenik what's nearly as concerning as the gun on campus itself is that the vice principal diffused the situation.

"Where was the armed officer in the building…at the time?" she asked. "Why doesn't the plan call for an armed officer to handle that and to put the building on lockdown?"

Fulton County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa told Petchenik protocol is for a resource officer to respond to reports of an armed student and he said the district is investigating why that didn't happen in this case.

"We put procedures and policies in place and we have to make sure our employees follow them," he said. "If they don't follow the procedures and policies we put in place, there are consequences that go along with that."

Avossa told Petchenik the school wasn't put on lockdown because school staff and police believed they had contained the threat.

He also told Petchenik the district is taking the gang threat seriously, though he said he had no direct evidence, other than the student's claims, that he is involved in a street gang.

Petchenik found pictures of the teen on his Facebook page that depict the youth throwing up gang signs and one picture with a caption reading "Gangster Life."

"We don't tolerate gang activity in our classrooms," Avossa said.

Head of district security Mark Muma told Petchenik school police have a close relationship with the Sandy Springs Police Department and are trained on how to deal with gang activity.

He said students believed to be taking part in gang activity and who get in trouble are required to take a course with their parents on the issue as part of their disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, Petchenik confirmed that the teen's brother was also arrested Monday at Riverwood High School after police determined he had been smoking marijuana.

An incident report said the teen was found to have two 9 mm bullets in his backpack after his arrest.

Petchenik asked Avossa why Riverwood High School parents weren't notified about the bullets.

"We notify parents of situations on campus that we believe put the children in danger," he said. "The child you're speaking of did not have a weapon on them."

A woman who identified herself as the mother of both boys told Petchenik through a translator that the younger son had felt bullied at school and didn't want to attend class last Friday.

Fulton County school officials said the teen has been removed from school and is now facing felony charges.

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