Missing gun spurs AASD lockdown

Concern about a missing handgun and ammunition lead to the search of all students entering the Altoona Area High School on Monday morning.

At 7 a.m., a parent called Altoona police to report a concern.

His .22-caliber revolver and ammunition were missing, and his child, who was en route to school, had access to it.

Altoona police relayed the message to Altoona Area School District police, and within 10 minutes school security personnel identified the student in question. The student cooperated with a metal detector check and a backpack search. Neither the gun nor ammunition was found.

But the district continued searching each student who came to the door. After about an hour, all students were scanned and their backpacks searched. Again, the missing gun and ammunition were not found.

The entrance to the building was restricted Monday. However, operations inside the building ran normally once all students had been checked. That process delayed the start of school by about 10 minutes, district Spokeswoman Paula Foreman said.

Rumors and news reports that the high school was on “lockdown,” which is a term implying students were locked in classrooms and that there was no movement within the school, were not true, Foreman said.

“The positive thing that came from the situation was that the father was concerned and called police,” Foreman said. “That gave us the opportunity to put into place our protective and proactive actions.”

Penn-Lincoln Elementary School is within walking distance from the high school. No security measures were rolled out there.

Parent Karyn Shields picked up her child from the elementary school because she did not feel her child was safe.

“I want parents to feel safe about their children being in school,” she said. “Why not lock down the school across the street just to be safe?”

The district had received many questions from parents about why Penn-Lincoln was not locked down, Foreman said.

The response from Foreman, who spoke with Director of Police Services Jack Reilly, said Penn Lincoln students arrive at 9 a.m. for school. The student in question at the high school was identified and searched, in addition to all other high school students, with an hour to spare before Penn-Lincoln’s start time.

Altoona police Lt. Jeffrey Pratt said the gun owner’s son, an 18-year-old Altoona Area High School student, had moved out of his parents’ home a week ago. The son returned to the house Sunday to gather some belongings and got into a heated argument with his parents, Pratt added. The son left with items in a backpack, police said.

Since no charges are filed against the 18-year-old, police have not released his name.

Pratt noted the gun owner had scant information about the stolen gun, only that it was an eight-shot, .22 caliber revolver. The gun’s make, model and serial number are unknown, Pratt said, so police can’t enter it into any of the usual police data bases for future reference.

The investigation into the theft of the gun remains ongoing, Pratt said.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435. Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock contributed to this report.