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An Andrew Jackson High School junior was arrested Friday for having a loaded handgun in his truck.
Also on that same day, a Clinton Elementary School fifth-grader was suspended after he was caught with bullets at school.
Dorian Drake Knight, 17, 6982 Shiloh Unity Road, was arrested March 1 at Andrew Jackson High and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds and possession of a firearm by a person under the age of 18, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Lancaster County School District safety director Bryan Vaughn said the AJ High incident occurred after a routine drug and weapons search at the school but was not a result of the search.
“Shortly after the dog left there was a conversation between the student and another student during lunch and the student referred to a loaded handgun in his vehicle,” Vaughn said. “Another student, who was not privy to the conversation, overheard it and went to officials and said, ‘this student may have a loaded pistol in his car.’”
Vaughn said school officials called the resource officer and confronted the 17-year-old student, who admitted he had a gun. A consent search of the student’s truck turned up a loaded .22-caliber Hi-Standard revolver according to the incident report.
“One thing I’d stress is that at no time were there any students in jeopardy,” Vaughn said. “We don’t think it was brought with any ill-intent or intended to hurt anyone.
“We just think it was a bad choice on the part of the student,” he said.
Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw said Knight was released the next day on a $15,000 personal recognizance bond.
While most cases involving children under 17 years old are referred to the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice, Shaw said Knight, at 17, is old enough to be charged as an adult.
“He goes to General Sessions Court just like everyone else,” Shaw said. “I’m not sure, but age may be taken into account in this case.”
If convicted on the possession of a firearm by a person under the age of 18 charge, which is considered a misdemeanor, Shaw said the teen faces a maximum fine of $1,000 or up to one year in jail. On the school grounds charge, considered a felony, Shaw said Knight faces a maximum fine of $5,000 or up to five years in jail.
“We’re absolutely glad the weapon was found,” Shaw said.
Vaughn said in keeping with school policy, school officials suspended Knight for 10 days. He and his parents will attend a disciplinary hearing during the suspension to determine if he is to be expelled, Vaughn said.
Clinton Elementary incident
In an unrelated incident Friday, Clinton Elementary officials had to deal with a fifth-grader who violated the school district’s weapons policy.
According to the incident report, Clinton Elementary Principal Rachel Ray called the Lancaster Police Department about 11:30 a.m. when a fifth-grade teacher told her about a student who was showing bullets to friends.
The report said when school officials confronted the 11-year-old boy, he pulled seven .22-caliber rounds out of his pocket. Ray said another student told her the boy had said he was also going to bring a gun to school.
The boy told the school resource officer and officials his mother had a gun at home, which she kept locked up, according to the report. He found the bullets in the living room.
Vaughn said after considering the student’s age and the offense, the student has been suspended and could face other disciplinary actions at school, but will likely not be expelled.
Reason for zero tolerance policy
Friday’s incidents occurred in the shadow of a Feb. 27 incident in Chardon, Ohio, when a 17-year-old opened fire at his former high school’s cafeteria, wounding five students, three of whom later died.
Vaughn said while the incidents here were nothing like the one in Ohio, the school district still takes them seriously. Even an innocent incident of having a gun on school grounds could turn bad, he added.
“It could be a situation where the student is showing a gun to a friend and the friend accidently fires it and someone gets shot, or a situation where a student breaks into a car, steals the gun and hurts someone,” Vaughn said. “It could even be a situation where a student is basically good, but gets into an argument and in the heat of the moment gets a gun.
“That’s why we as a district have the zero-tolerance policy with guns on school grounds,” he said.
Vaughn said school officials take incidents like the one at Clinton Elementary School seriously, but for different reasons.
“Our main concern with situations like that, and the major reason we wanted to make sure we had a (police) report on the incident, is anytime you have a young child with bullets he’s gotten at home, that means there’s probably a gun at home that he might be able to get ahold of and hurt himself,” Vaughn said.
“We want to make sure we report situations like that to authorities because if we didn’t inform them, and the child hurts himself at home when we could have helped prevented it, that would be a situation you couldn’t live with,” he said.
Reporter Chris Sardelli contributed to this story. Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151