Teen arrested in gun incident

JM principal pleased with action plan

By Matthew Stolle

Life at John Marshall High School returned to normal late Tuesday morning after police arrested a 16-year-old boy on school grounds for pointing what appeared to be a handgun at a student.

The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun. But police also found a loaded .45-caliber ammunition clip after the suspect attempted to hide the clip under a spare tire in the box of his pickup.


The suspect is not a JM student. Police said the juvenile is not originally from Rochester but has been living in the area.

Rochester Police Lt. Dan Muyres said authorities kept the school in lockdown mode after the suspect's arrest so a search of the grounds could be conducted without the risk of someone else finding a second gun. No second gun was found.

According to authorities, three JM students were walking by the pickup when the teenage suspect inside pointed the gun at the students. The students ran toward the school, and the suspect got out of the truck and chased them. The students alerted the hall monitor, who radioed Police Liaison Officer Eric Boynton. Boynton went to the parking lot, saw the teenager trying to hide the clip and arrested him.

The teenager, who initially was reported to be in his 20s, could face charges of making terroristic threats and second-degree assault.

But the grandmother of the suspect, Lola Townsend, says a mistaken impression has been given through the media that her grandson went to the school alone, intending to carry out some crime.

She said her grandson was a passenger in her truck. She had taken him with her while running an errand and decided at the last moment to go to JM to arrange the transfer of her two children.

"He didn't even know I was going to the school that day," she said. She was inside the school when the incident took place, and she believes comments might have been exchanged between her grandson and the others, provoking her grandson.

Townsend said she didn't know how her grandson came to possess the pellet gun or ammunition clip.


Police said the incident apparently stemmed from a conflict Friday between groups of African-Americans and Somalis in the area of 41st Street and 18th Avenue Northwest.

As many as 40 people were involved in that altercation, police said. Muyres said police don't know what triggered the conflict. Police interviews have failed to produce a consistent story.

Police say the suspect in the JM case is an African-American, and the victims include one or more Somalis.

The school activated its crisis plan soon after administrators learned of the incident, which occurred around 9:45 a.m. Students and staff remained in their classes and were not allowed to enter or leave the building while police investigated the incident.

The crisis plan "worked to perfection, because students remained in the areas they were in and staff were able to keep them calm," JM Principal Rick Stirn said. The school remained in lockdown for about 65 minutes and was back to normal about 10:45 a.m.

Stirn said word about the conflict between the Somali and African-American groups had reached school staff Friday evening during JM's football game. Because the location of the incident was within the school's attendance area, concern among staff members was natural.

On Monday, staff members talked to a couple of students involved in the conflict in an effort to defuse future problems. Stirn added there are limits to the amount of control a school can exercise when the disturbance is off-campus.

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