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Student charged after pistol seized at THS: Handgun is second found in McDuffie Schools this year

In less than three weeks, McDuffie County school officials have found two handguns in schools in McDuffie County, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.

The latest incident occurred at Thomson High School last Thursday afternoon and has led to felony charges against a 15-year-old sophomore, according to McDuffie County School Superintendent Mark Petersen. The student's name has not been disclosed.

Dr. Petersen said the student has been charged with carrying a weapon on school property, and carrying a concealed weapon - both of which are felonies under Georgia law. The student was taken to the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center where he remained Tuesday night.

A juvenile hearing was scheduled for Monday morning before Toombs Judicial Circuit Court Juvenile Judge Brett Hammond, but was waived by the attorney representing the teen, according to Judge Hammond. The teen's attorney is from the circuit's public defenders office.

The case now is being reviewed by the District Attorney's office.

The superintendent said charges against the teen stem from a .38-caliber handgun that was spotted in the student's book bag by a teacher.

The handgun was not loaded, according to Dr. Petersen, noting that the student claimed that someone placed it in his book bag at an undisclosed location the night before, and he knew nothing about it.

According to an incident report filed by Board of Education Security Officer Lorenzo Heggs, the incident took place shortly after 2 p.m.

Dr. Petersen said the Thomson City Police Department was not contacted about the incident because of a working agreement between them and the school board, which has been in place since August 15, 2000.

The agreement, which was formulated during former School Superintendent Ed Grisham's administration, specifically identifies Officer Heggs and Thomson Middle School BOE Security Officer Michael Gartrell as being POST certified officers and under the jurisdiction of the local police department. They have arrest powers and other jurisdiction as granted by the laws of the State of Georgia. They also operate under procedures governed by the Toombs Judicial Circuit Juvenile Division and District Attorney's offices.

Officer Heggs also investigated the earlier handgun incident.

On Sept. 12, a .22-caliber handgun was discovered in a boys' restroom at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School, Dr. Petersen said during a Tuesday interview with The Mirror. No one has been charged in connection with that crime.

The German-made gun, described as silver with brown handgrips, was found by a student who reported it to Principal Steve Rhodes. The unloaded gun later was retrieved and taken as evidence. The incident remains under investigation.

Web posted on Thursday, October 09, 2008

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