Boy, 9, arrested for bringing gun to Prince William school

A 9-year-old student who told police that he had been bullied was arrested Thursday for bringing a gun to his Prince William County elementary school.

Prince William County police said the boy showed a handgun, which was disassembled and in a case, to several classmates. One student told a teacher, who alerted administrators at the school, Ellis Elementary in Manassas, Va.

The gun would not have been able to fire a round because it was not assembled, police said, and there was no indication that the boy wanted to hurt anyone.

“There are no reports that he had threatened anyone or that he had intended to use the handgun,” said Ericca Figueroa, a police spokeswoman. She said that she could not elaborate on the boy’s statement that he had been bullied, and she said police are investigating that claim.

Police also arrested a 29-year-old man acquainted with the boy for allegedly failing to secure the handgun. Travis Pettie Sr., of Manassas, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The boy was charged with possession of a firearm on school property; Virginia law prohibits weapons on public, private and religious school property.

“In some ways, the most important aspect was that this was promptly reported to us by another student,” said Philip Kavits, a Prince William schools spokesman. “We are constantly reinforcing to our students that they play a huge role in safety.”

Kavits said that few students knew about the gun until police had already confiscated it. School officials issued an automated phone call to parents and printed out a letter for students to take home explaining the situation because they knew some students might worry. Kavits said the letter explains to parents that “students need to be reminded that they are safe in school.”

Many schools in the region have heightened security since the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. Kavits said that Sandy Hook Elementary was not far from parents’ and teachers’ thoughts Thursday when they learned about the gun at Ellis.

“I think, certainly, awareness of the things that have gone on in Newtown and elsewhere in the country certainly have people concerned,” Kavits said. “Parents are always concerned about the safety of their children. They want to know what’s going on when they hear things like that.”

Kavits said the county’s teachers and administrators are trained to react to gun threats and “behave very, very aggressively in terms of dealing with any possibility of a threat.”

At Ellis Elementary, which has 650 students, a receptionist said that no one at the school would comment on the student’s arrest.

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Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.
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