Teen charged with bringing gun to MCHS

September 12, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – A 17-year-old student is facing felony charges after a Facebook post about a gun prompted a search and increased security at Michigan City High School.

Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek said the teenage boy, a student at MCHS, was taken into custody at his home on Monday afternoon and was being held at the Juvenile Service Center on weapons charges.

Police learned about 9:15 p.m. Sunday that a gun might have been brought to school “through information we received from a social media post,” Swistek said. The Facebook post said the boy had the gun at school on Friday.

School officials were notified that another student believed that a gun was present in a high school gym locker room, school spokeswoman Betsy Kohn said.

Police said safety plans were immediately initiated, additional staff were called in, and officers investigated overnight Sunday and into Monday.

“All throughout the night and into (Monday) morning, we investigated the information that we received,” Swistek said. “Overnight searches of the high school were conducted and other safety measures were put in place prior to the students arriving Monday.”

Police, school staff and a specialized Berrien County K-9 unit searched locker rooms, and then the entire interior and exterior of the building, but no gun was found, police said. Additional security measures were implemented Monday morning, including searches of student bags.

“Police K-9 units and additional officers were present throughout the school day and searches of the students’ backpacks occurred Monday morning at the start of the school day,” Swistek said.

Though no gun was found at the school, police felt the report was of “valid concern,” he said.

Using the social media information, police on Monday afternoon went to the home of a suspect.

“Shortly after 3:30 p.m. at the home of the 17-year-old male, we recovered the handgun that was described in the information we received,” Swistek said.

He said the weapon was a semi-automatic handgun, and it was loaded when detectives found it at the home.

The boy and his parent were cooperative, police said. The teen was later charged as a juvenile with Dangerous Possession of a Firearm, and Possession of a Firearm on School Property. His age prevents police from saying whether he has had prior arrests.

Kohn said the student “will not be returning to school.”

“We are still in the early stages of this investigation and need to continue speaking with witnesses and taking other investigative measures,” according to the chief.

Police did not release exactly what the Facebook post said. Asked if it was considered a bona fide threat, or just boasting about having a gun, Swistek said that didn’t matter.

“Never assume,” he said. “We are taking it as a threat of a student in possession of a firearm on school property while school was in session.”

School officials “have been exceptional to work with as school safety is paramount to all of us,” the chief said. “We want to assure the parents and students of MCAS that we appreciate their patience and cooperation as it was exceptional with this investigation.”

“We always encourage any students who have a concern about something they may have heard or seen to contact an adult immediately,” Kohn said. “We take all threats seriously.”

School officials are grateful to police for their “quick response to this situation,” she said. “We will have an increased police presence at MCHS throughout the week to ensure safety and security for all.

“As a district, safety and security is our top priority.”

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