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Students expelled for bringing shotgun to high school campus

LANGLEY — Seven police cars swooped into the parking lot of South Whidbey High School about noon Wednesday after school officials reported a shotgun in a student's pick-up truck.

Two male students, a 17-year-old senior from Greenbank and a 15-year-old sophomore from Freeland, were to be charged with possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds, a gross misdemeanor, said Lt. Evan Tingstad, commander of the south precinct for the Island County Sheriff's Office.

The students were taken to the Island County Juvenile Detention Facility in Coupeville, where they were processed and released to their parents, Tingstad said.

Sheriff's Det. Ed Wallis said Friday that 16 12-guage shotgun cartridges also were found in the truck. He said said the youths were transported to Coupeville in handcuffs.

"When you're arrested, you get handcuffed, no ifs, ands or buts," Wallis said.

The 17-year-old owner of the double-barreled shotgun told sheriff's deputies he didn't have time to take it home before school Wednesday.

"It wasn't a situation of school violence," Tingstad said. "There was no indication anyone was going to do harm. It was simply a very, very poor choice. There's absolute zero tolerance."

Fred McCarthy, South Whidbey School District superintendent, said the two were kicked out of school on the spot.

"Board policy is very clear," McCarthy said. "Having a firearm on campus calls for automatic expulsion for at least one calendar year."

He said that although the gun didn't belong to the 15-year-old, it was determined during questioning that the youth knew it was there, so he was therefore legally culpable.

The incident began when school officials received a tip that a gun was in the vehicle, McCarthy said. Meanwhile, the youths had driven away from campus at lunchtime.

Neither had permission to leave, officials said. Only seniors are permitted to leave campus, but the 17-year-old, although a senior, wasn't authorized to leave campus, officials said.

When the pair returned, sheriff's deputies were called. They searched the cab of the pick-up and found the side-by-side double-barrel shotgun and cartridges.

Tingstad said he followed protocol and summoned every vehicle working the South End. Two Langley police vehicles responded, as did five from the sheriff's office, including two special units on traffic duty.

"We don't normally have that many vehicles in the area," Tingstad said.

He said lunchtime was over and students were back in classes when the seven officers arrived.

"All our experiences and training appears to have worked," McCarthy said. "That's life in school, the kinds of things that can happen."

"It was a really bad move," Tingstad agreed, "but it turned out as good as it could have."

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or rjacobson@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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