Tuesday afternoon, as school was letting out, the Memphis Police Department received a complaint that a youth, who appeared to be doing some target practice on private property near the Scotland County R-I bus barn, was being unsafe with the line of fire, possibly creating some danger for the neighboring properties.
The initial complaint indicated the youth appeared to be shooting a pellet or B-B gun.
Investigators stated that contact was made with the youth’s parent, who indicated there were no firearms in the home. The parent was close to home and stated the juvenile would be checked on and the situation remedied.
Shortly after the initial complaint, the parent contacted the police department, to report the youth was in possession of an Airsoft gun, which shoots soft plastic rounds.
Shortly after the initial contact, at 3:09 p.m. an apparent bullet hole was located in an unoccupied privately-owned vehicle parked at the school’s bus barn.
That led to a second search of the juvenile’s residence by the parent, at which time a .22 handgun was uncovered and turned over to the police as evidence.
At approximately 5 p.m. investigators spoke with a witness who alleged that the suspect pointed the firearm at a school bus as it was leaving the bus barn to pick up students.
Memphis Police Chief Bill Holland indicated at this time the investigation turned from target practice gone awry to a more serious weapons investigation. He added that the complaint was not received until after the school buses had returned from their routes, meaning law enforcement and the district had no knowledge of any possible threat to student safety until that point.
At that time, due to the uncertainty of the situation, the school district began considering options related to the following day’s schedule. An initial decision was made to cancel all early-morning activities, as heading into the evening hours the district was still awaiting word on the investigation’s outcome while considering the possibility of canceling school the following day.
Later in the evening on Tuesday, the SCR-I School District contacted parents to indicate an incident had occurred but that school would be in session on Wednesday.
Superintendent Ryan Bergeson indicated that law enforcement was able to verify there was not an ongoing threat to the district Tuesday evening, allowing the district to avoid canceling classes.
“Law enforcement has identified the person responsible for the gunshot and has informed the school district that the person has been removed from the area and does not present any danger to the district, or its staff or personnel,” said Bergeson. “We are confident that students, staff, and others present at or entering and leaving district premises are safe, and that law enforcement will continue to keep us informed and to ensure that no new danger develops.”
Holland indicated, while he understood students’ parents might be concerned about safety protocol, the potential threat was not identified until well after all students had already safely arrived home on the buses. He added that the investigation had to proceed and facts had to be gathered to present to the school to provide an accurate message to allow administrators to decide whether to hold classes the following morning.
“Communication in this situation is important for all parties involved,” said Holland. “I know parents wanted to know what was going on, but once we determined there was not a safety threat, our attention turned to collecting evidence and verifying information to make sure the news coming out of this incident was accurate. The only thing worse in incidents like this than no information, is misinformation, and we wanted to do our best to make sure that didn’t happen.”