Sidney youth pleads guilty

SIDNEY – The Sidney High School freshman found with a loaded .25-caliber handgun in their backpack entered a guilty plea following plea negotiations Wednesday afternoon. The unidentified male youth was released from custody and placed on an ankle monitoring security system following the proceedings.

He is also ordered to stay away from any building or public event at any Sidney City Schools property while a disposition investigation review is completed. District administrator Doug Zimmer said the property ban was agreeable with the district.

The final ruling on the case is expected in approximately three weeks. The youth, now ruled a delinquent, faces a possible term of six months to the age of 21 in juvenile detention; a $300 fine; up to 500 hours of community service; and restrictions on future driving privileges and access to social media.

Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Jeff Beigel heard of the plea agreement from the youth’s attorney, Justin Griffis of Sidney, with Kerrigan, Boller, Griffis & Link law firm. Assistant Prosecutor Heath Hegemann agreed a mutual decision had been reached. It was ruled the gun confiscated in the classroom would remain secured as evidence.

Beigel told the youth his crime of possessing a deadly weapon would be a fifth-degree felony, if he were an adult. He asked the accused youth if he was coerced or promised anything in return for the guilty plea. The teen replied he was fully aware of the plea implications. The judge then asked the youth’s parents if they felt there was any reason the court should not accept his guilty plea. They did not.

The judge displayed a folder of nearly 30 letters of support from school teachers, athletic coaches, and friends, including one from Sidney Schools Superintendent John Scheu. Prior to the court session, nearly 20 friends and family gathered in the hallway in support of the accused.

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.

Incarcerated for possessing gun in school

Until Wednesday, the youth was housed at the West Central Juvenile Detention Center in Troy for a week.

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 unavailable. The student’s defense attorney had requested the accused be placed on house arrest.

On Aug. 29, the juvenile was taken into custody at the end of the school day after school officials were notified a loaded handgun was in the backpack. According to Scheu, the arrest was made at approximately 2:22 p.m., which was eight minutes prior to school’s dismissal.

Scheu reported that several students received a text from another student regarding the gun. He indicated the gun was shown to others in the classroom. Administrators then changed protocol because it was near the end of the school day. Protocol would have been to announce a lockdown, he said.

Scheu said first responders at the school went to each classroom, locking doors. Fearing the student may reaction irrationally, officials didn’t announce a lockdown of the building. Teachers soon received a text telling them to keep the students in class until they received further notice. The teachers then received an email giving them more information.

Scheu reported 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 exhibited and evacuated all the students into the hallway. When the students were out of the room, they searched the belongings that students had left in the classroom and found the loaded gun in a backpack, said Scheu.

He said there was no indication that the student had shown anyone the gun prior to the incident at the end of the school day.

In addition, the student faces suspension and possible expulsion from school.

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Handcuffs are removed from the defendant before going before Judge Jeff Beigel Wednesday, Sept. 6. are removed from the defendant before going before Judge Jeff Beigel Wednesday, Sept. 6. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News
Was found with loaded gun at SHS

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News