SIDNEY — The Sidney High School freshman who was found with a loaded .25-caliber handgun in his backpack was sentenced to 10 days in West Central Juvenile Detention Center in Troy Friday in Shelby County Juvenile Court.
The teen was charged with the illegal conveyance of a firearm onto a school property. The unidentified male youth entered a plea of guilty to the charge following a plea deal in early September.
Judge Jeff Beigel also ordered that the youth be placed on probation, have no contact with Sidney City Schools for the 2017-18 school year, write an apology letter to the school that will be made available to anyone who wishes to see it, attend counseling once per week, receive moral recognition therapy, complete 20 hours of community service with the Salvation Army, pay a $300 fine and forfeit the gun. Beigel suspended 80 days of the original 90 day term in West Central.
The youth has been expelled from Sidney High School for the school year, and was taken to West Central immediately following court proceedings.
Prior to sentencing, Assistant Prosecutor Heath Hegemann, Sidney High School Principal Douglas Zimmer, a representative from Sidney Victim Services, the youth’s father and his lawyer, Justin Griffis of Sidney, with Kerrigan, Boller, Griffis & Link law firm, all gave statements about the incident. Several friends and family members waited outside the courtroom.
“When something like this happens it effects the whole campus,” Hegemann said. “I’d like to point out that there was no tragedy, but certainly this is something the school needs to be on high alert for.”
Griffis explained the juvenile found the gun while helping his grandmother move boxes and put it in his backpack so he could take it home without his parents knowing. Griffis said the youth then forgot the gun was in his backpack the next day and in second period discovered he had brought the weapon to school. The attorney alleged the youth did not intend to show the gun to anyone, as that may have gotten him in trouble similar to what he is facing now.
“He had no malicious intent,” Griffis said. “He knows it was a complete and total lapse of judgement.”
Griffis and the youth’s father both noted they did not believe the Snapchat found during the pre-sentence investigation and provided by a Sidney City Schools student was be sent by the youth. The Snapchat allegedly claims that he was going to shoot up the school.
The youth apologized to the court, his family, the school, his fellow students and his grandmother, and accepted full responsibility for his actions.
Beigel appeared thoughtful before handing out his sentence. He said he found it hard to believe a young man in high school would forget he had possession of a firearm, but weighed that against over 25 letters Griffis gave him that supported the youth’s character, ethics and morals from teachers, coaches and friends, including one from Sidney Schools Superintendent John Scheu.
Beigel ordered that the youth’s mother be responsible for making sure the juvenile made it to all meeting and requirements ordered by the court.
Incarceration for possessing a gun in school
The incident took place Aug. 29, when he was taken into custody at the end of the school day after school officials were told he had a loaded gun in a backpack. According to Scheu, the arrest was made at 8 minutes prior to school’s dismissal at 2:22 p.m. Scheu said several students received a text from another student regarding the gun, and the gun was shown to others in the classroom. Since the incident occured so close to the end of the school day, administrators changed protocol and did not announce a lockdown.
The school’s resource officer, Sgt. Scott Atwood, along with administrators Doug Zimmer, Dan Barnes and John Willoughby, went to the classroom where the gun had been shown and evacuated all the students into the hallway before searching the classroom and finding the loaded gun.
At the Aug. 30 arraignment, Beigel ordered the juvenile to be detained because the gun was not from the student’s home. No information on how the student obtained the gun was available. The student’s defense attorney had requested the accused be placed on house arrest.
The juvenile has been on an ankle monitoring system since the September hearing, and was ordered to stay away from any building or public event at any Sidney City Schools property while the disposition investigation review was completed. Prior to that, he was held at the West Central for a week.
Scheu said there was no indication that the student had shown anyone the gun prior to the incident at the end of the school day.
At the previous hearing, Beigel said the next three weeks will determine if the youth made a bad decision or if official intervention into his life is needed. He noted the youth must be held responsible for his actions, but the court needed a closer look at his behavior before ruling.
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