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Dumbarton Middle students find loaded gun in Rodgers Forge

Girls walking home discover gun in grass on Heathfield Road

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

8:29 PM EDT, August 30, 2013

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A pair of students at Dumbarton Middle School is being lauded for their actions after a walk home from school last week led them to find — and turn over to police — a loaded handgun on a Rodgers Forge sidewalk.

Lauren Miller, 13, and a friend were chatting on their way home from the third day of school at Dumbarton on Aug. 28 when they found the weapon . The family of the second girl declined to be interviewed for the story..

"When I found it, I was kind of shocked that I'd seen it," Lauren said. "This is a safe neighborhood. I was really surprised to see something like that."

Lauren said she used her foot to uncover the gun in a grassy patch on Heathfield Road between Regester Avenue and Murdock Road in Rodgers Forge, took a photo of the gun on her phone, and went home to tell her mother.

Linda Miller, a lecturer at Towson University in the Elementary Education Department, had just arrived home from work when her daughter got home, she said.

"She showed me the picture, and I said, 'Let's go see what's going on.' "

Once there, Lauren's twin brother, Ryan, called 911, and within minutes officers were on the scene.

Cpl. Cathy Batton, a police spokeswoman, said officers responded and determined that the gun, a .38 caliber handgun, was loaded.

Linda Miller said she never thought there was a need to tell her twins what to do if they found a gun, though safety on the walk home from school through Rodgers Forge was a frequent topic.

"I've always told them to walk in pairs, and if you ever see anything suspicious, come and get me," Linda Miller said. "I really think she just used her instincts with what my husband and I have instilled in her and her brother."

Still, Lauren said the middle school rumor mill has distorted the truth a bit since that day.

"At school, it was kind of tough because some people were spreading rumors, but as it went on throughout the days, today it got a little better," she said. "I think everyone is just trying to forget about it and just let it go."

Affirmation that she did the right thing has come from her mother, and school officials, Linda Miller said.

"They absolutely did the right thing," she said. "I can't be more proud of her for doing what she did. Other children might have picked it up and investigated it, but she has those tools that will probably take her through the rest of her life."

Dumbarton Middle School Principal Sue Harris declined comment for this story through a BCPS spokeswoman, but Linda Miller said that the family had a "nice informal chat" with the principal who "praised Lauren for doing the right thing."

As of Thursday, police were working to determine the owner of the gun and how it was left on the side of the street.

On Wednesday, Karen Rodriguez, a Rodgers Forge resident and parent who saw the police examining the gun, said she "can't imagine, as many people who walk around this neighborhood, it had been there for more than a couple of hours."

Batton said criminal charges could be filed against the owner of the gun.

"It will depend on the circumstances," Batton said. "You're required to secure your weapon from access to minors."