Hazleton Standard Speaker | By Amanda Christman
Bullets found in a bathroom at the Hazleton Area Ninth Grade Center last week were intended for target shooting in a student's backyard, school officials said Tuesday after three students were charged in the incident.
A 16-year-old student from Sugarloaf Township gave 83 .22-caliber bullets to a 16-year-old student from Rock Glen, state police Trooper Chris Bayzick said. The exchange was made in a boys' bathroom on April 3, and the Rock Glen boy stashed the bullets in a trash can so he could retrieve them later, Bayzick said.
The Rock Glen teenager also bought a revolver from a 14-year-old student from Kline Township. The gun was stolen from a Kline Township home during a burglary, Bayzick said, and the sale took place at 22nd and Lincoln streets, about a block east of the Hazleton Area High School campus.
State police at Hazleton charged the 14-year-old with selling the gun, and Kline Township police charged him in the burglary. Bayzick said he was also "one of the juveniles" responsible for the burglary. Last week Kline Township police issued a press release stating that someone broke into a home at 14 James St. and stole a Ruger .22-caliber pistol, H&R .22-caliber revolver, Marlin .22-caliber rifle, Walther 9mm pistol, Winchester 7mm rifle and a Browning semi-automatic shotgun. Kline Township police said they charged the 14-year-old with burglary, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief through the Schuylkill County Juvenile Court system. Other arrests are pending their investigation into the theft of guns. Police said only the revolver has been found since the burglary. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the other guns is asked to call police at 570-929-2354.
The gun never made it inside a school building and was not intended to cause harm at any district building, said Bayzick, who is a state trooper assigned to the high school. However, the gun is believed to have been in the 14-year-old's backpack as he traversed the parking lot of the Hazleton Area Career Center before he sold it, Bayzick said.
"At no time was there ever a weapon inside that building," Superintendent Francis X. Antonelli said.
As troopers investigated the bullets found inside the trash can by a school district employee, Bayzick said he received a phone call from the Rock Glen boy concerning the bullets. The boy said he had a revolver at his home that police believe was stolen from Kline Township.
Bayzick said if the three boys lived in the same town, the exchanges of the bullets and the gun probably would not have happened at the school. He said he believes the transactions took place at the high school campus because it is a central location.
At no time was there a threat or harm meant by stashing the bullets in the trash can, Bayzick said.
Once the bullets were discovered, the Ninth Grade Center was searched for a weapon from 4:15 to 7:45 p.m. April 3 and again when school reconvened at 6:30 a.m. April 4, Antonelli said. He said troopers assisted school maintenance and security in searching the school.
Antonelli said he made the decision to allow classes to resume Wednesday, noting students were not in danger. He also said the investigation needed to continue with people inside the school to ensure the quick apprehension of those responsible.
"You can't conduct an investigation in an empty building," he said.
Antonelli and Assistant to the Superintendent Donald Bayzick said the school was not in lockdown the day after the bullets were found, but students were on restrictive movement. He said students were not escorted by police around campus during the investigation.
The 14-year-old was charged with possession of a weapon on school property and the sale and transfer of a firearm, misdemeanors. He was also charged with receiving stolen property, firearms not be carried without a license and firearms not to be possessed by minor, all felonies. He is currently in custody at the Lehigh County Juvenile Detention Center.
The Rock Glen teenager is at Northampton County Juvenile Detention Center and on charges of terroristic threats, possession of a firearm by a minor, possession of a firearm without a license and receiving stolen property. The terroristic threats charge is a result of the "panic" and "terror" caused at the school when the bullets were found, Bayzick said.
The 16-year-old from Sugarloaf will be charged by a summons for possession of instruments of crime.
During a press conference Tuesday, Antonelli thanked troopers for their involvement, noting that three youths involved in the incident were apprehended two-and-a-half days after the bullets were found. Trooper Bayzick "worked around the clock" after the bullets were found, Antonelli said.
In addition to charges filed against the boys, the district plans to initiate its own discipline related to the incident. Antonelli said the district would consult with its solicitor to "impose the maximum penalty allowable" to deal with the students "appropriately and effectively."
Donald Bayzick said he supported Antonelli's handling of the incident, noting he understands that people may feel information wasn't released early enough but that the district was trying to maintain a safe environment.
Antonelli said the district is also looking at obtaining more metal detectors so they can be used daily at schools.
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HAZLETON: Bullets were for target shooting
Hazleton Standard Speaker | By Amanda Christman