Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, August 22, 2013
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Airsoft gun case dropped
Charge against HOB student dismissed

A judge on Tuesday dismissed the charge against a Horace O'Bryant Middle School boy accused of possessing an airsoft pellet gun on campus earlier this year.

Circuit Judge David Audlin ruled after a two-hour bench trial -- meaning there was no jury -- Tuesday that prosecutors failed to prove the 12-year-old student "willfully intended" to possess the pellet gun on school grounds, said defense attorney Sam Kaufman.

"I think that sometimes cases like this are better dealt with at the school as a disciplinary issue and not referred to the criminal justice system," Kaufman said. "I have children in the school system here too, and we all want safe schools."

The incident occurred Feb. 20 soon after classes had started for the day, and resulted in a lockdown of the Leon Street school for several hours.

Police responded to the scene and three boys -- one of whom was Kaufman's client -- were identified, detained and processed.

"We respect the court's decision and we're happy that no one was hurt during the situation," State Attorney Catherine Vogel said.

The incident began when one boy brought the broken airsoft gun to the school bus stop so another boy could fix it, Kaufman said.

"It's my understanding that boy asked my client if he could put it in my client's backpack because he didn't have a place to keep it," Kaufman said, adding that the other boys were a little older than his client.

"I know it's only about a year or so, but that can make a big difference in middle school," he said.

In March, the two other 13-year-old defendants agreed to enter the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Intensive Delinquency Diversion Service (IDDS) as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Audlin told them if they did well in the program they could avoid having a felony conviction on their permanent record.

The terms of their agreement as part of IDDS were not released. Kaufman's client will not have any criminal history.

No one was harmed or threatened during the incident, but a broken intercom system led to some confusion. Teachers were informed about the lockdown by email, and the police were actually called by the parents of one student who had called home to say she was safe.

A full debriefing was later conducted with Schools Superintendent Mark Porter, officials with the Key West Police Department and the School District, and HOB Principal Mike Henriquez.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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