Four weapons — three resembling real guns — seized at two Harford schools

Three BB guns and a folding knife were seized from three students at two different schools Friday, a day the school system was conducting an active assailant training for administrators at one of the schools, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said.

All three guns seized — two from two students at the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen and one from one student at Edgewood Middle — looked like real guns, but were discovered to be BB guns, the Sheriff’s Office said. They are still considered weapons in a school setting, according to Cristie Hopkins, director of media relations for the Sheriff’s Office.

One of the two students at the CEO was also found to have a folding knife in his possession.

The safety tips had been removed from the two confiscated at the CEO, where the training was taking place, Hopkins said.

“It gives the gun the appearance that it is real,” Hopkins wrote in an email. “They present the appearance of a real firearm, and with that appearance can cause real fear, panic and intimidation, which may result in deadly consequences.”

Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said the incidents Friday go “a long way to highlight the reasons why proactive policing needs to exist inside our schools.”

"It is ironic that during the training for school administrators on the response to an active assailant, three where the training was being conducted,” Gahler said in the news release. “It is through the vigilance of our administrators, teachers and SROs [School Resource Officers] that we can provide a safe learning environment for all."

Harford County Public Schools staff from across the county were at the CEO Friday for active assailant training that is being implemented in the schools and which was announced last month. Administrators, teachers and students will all eventually be taught a “run-hide-fight” response to an assailant situation in their school.

The goal is to have nearly all schools administrators trained before the end of the calendar year, school officials said.

The incidents began around 11 a.m. Friday, when the SRO assigned to the CEO investigated the possibility a weapon had been brought to school, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t specific about how the agency learned there was the possibility weapons had been brought on campus saying only that "various investigative and surveillance techniques" were used.

Deputies found what appeared to be a Beretta 92F style handgun in a backpack inside a locker belonging to a student. But the gun was identified to be a BB gun with the orange safety tip intentionally removed, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

During the same investigation, deputies and school officials learned that a second weapon was also brought to school. A search of another student’s property yielded what appeared to be a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun, which also turned out to be a BB gun and also with the safety tip removed, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Two male students, aged 13 and 14, were questioned about the weapons. During the interview, the 14-year-old was also found to have a folding knife in his possession.

Both juveniles were charged via the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services with possession of a deadly weapon on school property and released into the custody of their parents after processing.

Both students are from Edgewood, Hopkins said. The 14-year-old recently moved to Edgewood and was placed at the CEO by the Department of Juvenile Services. The 13-year-old attends Edgewood Middle School.

While the students at the CEO know each other, police had no reason to believe they are rivals or that one was targeting the other, Hopkins said.

Later in the afternoon, in a separate incident, a 13-year-old male was found with an air soft gun at Edgewood Middle School, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The SRO and school officials developed information throughout the day and the student made inferences to other students about having a weapon, Hopkins said.

He was charged by referral to Teen Court with possession of a dangerous weapon on school property.

The incident at Edgewood Middle is not connected to incidents at the CEO, and it’s a “complete coincidence” that three weapons would show up in schools the same day, Hopkins said.

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