Junior high boy charged with attempted murder

ELDRIDGE ? A 12-year-old boy who brought a loaded gun into his classroom at North Scott Junior High has been arrested and charged with attempted murder, authorities said Friday.

No shots were fired, no one was injured, and a teacher at the school disarmed the student before police arrived, according to a statement from Eldridge Police Chief David Kopatich. Police recovered a weapon described only as a .22 caliber handgun.

The boy, who was not identified by authorities, was being held at the Scott County Juvenile Detention facility, police said. Along with the attempted murder charge, he faces an additional felony for carrying a gun on school property, according to police.

No additional details were immediately available from the Eldridge Police Department, which is handling the investigation. Police would not disclose whether the boy was targeting a specific person in the classroom or threatening others generally. They also would not say how the child got the gun.

North Scott Community Schools Superintendent Joe Stutting praised the actions of the junior high staff, saying the teacher who obtained the gun ?did a phenomenal job handling the situation [and] keeping people safe.?

The school district does routine safety training to prepare for such emergencies, he said, but the outcome ultimately depended on the way the teacher and school staff reacted.

?It made all the difference in the world,? he said.

In an email sent out Friday morning, school officials alerted parents to a lockdown at the junior high school. They noted everyone was safe and asked parents ?not come to school or call as we process the situation with students and staff.?

?Our administration is working with law enforcement to ensure the situation is being handled thoroughly,? the notice read. ?Administration, law enforcement, and counselors will be visiting every junior high classroom to ensure our students feel safe.?

By late Friday morning, several children were seen leaving school early with their parents. Among them was Chase Wheeler, a seventh-grader at the junior high school, who said he was in social studies class when the boy pulled out the gun. Frightened over the episode, he asked his mother to pick him up from school.

Amy Wheeler, his mother, was at a nearby gas station when she got the call from her son, and started ?freaking out.? Although now relieved her son is safe, she questioned how a boy in his class obtained a gun in the first place.

?It?s a crazy world out here,? she said.

Police with the Scott County Sheriff?s Office and the Eldridge Police Department maintained a presence on school grounds through the end of the day. As some children were being let out around 2:15 p.m., an armed officer was seen holding the door open for a group of students as they left to board yellow school buses waiting in the parking lot.

While authorities say no one was physically harmed during this incident, the event occurs amid heightened fear for the safety of schoolchildren following deadly shootings around the nation.

Within the past year, mass-school shootings in Florida and Texas have prompted state lawmakers around the country to introduce gun-control legislation, additional resources for armed police officers in schools and security-related building upgrades. As of April, the National Conference of State Legislatures had identified more than 200 bills or resolutions introduced in 39 states concerning school safety.

In Iowa, a law was passed this year to make active-shooter drills mandatory in all schools. It cleared the House and Senate with bipartisan support and was approved by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in April.

Classes are scheduled to resume Tuesday. Stutting said staff will continue to work to ?make our kids feel safe again when they come back.?