Crime

Student caught with loaded gun at Palmetto middle school, cops say

A 14-year-old student was arrested Friday after bringing a loaded gun to Lincoln Memorial Academy, according to the Palmetto Police Department.

Just after 12:30 p.m., police were called to the school after several students reported that the teen was showing off the gun in the lunchroom, according to Police Chief Scott Tyler.

School staff, including the school guardian, immediately located the boy, found the loaded pistol in his backpack and secured it.

Darrel Williams was arrested and taken to the juvenile booking facility in Bradenton. He is facing charges for possession of a firearm on school grounds and underage possession of a firearm.

Detectives are working to determine how Williams acquired the .45 caliber pistol, because he didn’t get it from home, according to Tyler. His parents are cooperating with police, and his father was present as he was being questioned.

“I’m so very proud of those students who immediately alerted staff when they saw the handgun. ... They didn’t hesitate to say anything,” Tyler said. “It’s a shame our kids have to deal with things like this but they couldn’t have done a better job.”

There were no injuries reported.

Williams could face additional charges, according to Tyler. Possible charges would include aggravated assault if he pointed the pistol at anyone or careless exhibition of a firearm.

It was unknown if Williams had a criminal history or discipline issues at school, but he was not on police’s radar, Tyler said.

Because the gun was immediately found and secured, the school was never on lockdown, according to police and the district.

A message was sent to parents as soon as police arrived at the school, according to Manatee County School District spokesman Michael Barber.

“Just after 12:30 this afternoon, school administrators became aware that a student allegedly had a gun on our school campus. Administrators, working with our school guardian, immediately reacted and were able to confiscate the loaded weapon by approximately 12:40 p.m. without incident,” Principal Ronnie King said to parents. “The Palmetto Police Department responded and are now in charge of the investigation and resulting criminal consequences.”

The district’s director of safety and security, executive director of secondary schools and other administrators were on campus afterward to provide additional security and assistance.

“I want to strongly and thankfully emphasize that all of our students and staff are safe, and law enforcement is now in firm control of this situation. We will update you as warranted. Thank you for your continued support of Lincoln Memorial Academy.”

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Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.
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