Student hurt when gun fired on campus, parents upset over delayed notification

Police were called to Highlands Intermediate Monday morning after a gun went off on campus.
Police were called to Highlands Intermediate Monday morning after a gun went off on campus.
Capt. Lester Hite
Capt. Lester Hite

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - There were tense moments at Highlands Intermediate in Pearl City Monday morning, after a gun was fired on campus. One student was hurt, while another was taken into police custody.

Police swarmed the school shortly after 7 AM. The shooting happened near the basketball courts before classes began.

"I don't feel safe at all," Alaysha Young, 14, said. "But I'm with my mom now and I'm glad I'm leaving."

Investigators say a 14-year-old boy brought a Glock 45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol to school and was showing it to his friends. He reportedly removed the magazine, but there was still a bullet in the chamber.

"As he was pointing the gun at the first student, that student swiped his hand at the gun, knocking it downward and to the side," Capt. Lester Hite, Honolulu Police Department, said.

Hite says that's when the round went off.

"We believe it hit the lava rock wall," he said. "From there, it ricocheted. It went through the first victim's jacket without striking the victim."

But the bullet continued on, hitting a second wall and breaking apart.

The fragments struck a 14-year-old boy, who suffered cuts to several fingers and his right thigh. He was reported to be in good condition.

"He had a paper towel over his hand, and he was talking to the security guards and police officers," Tiffany Acker, 12, said.

"It's very disheartening, first of all and foremost," Venus Acker, parent, said. "Who would allow a 13-year-old to bring a gun to school and where did he get it from?"

That's what police were trying to determine.

The boy told officers he found the pistol. Investigators were questioning the registered owner of the gun since it had not been reported stolen.

The Department of Education could not immediately say what punishment it will impose on the gun-toting student.

The school did not go into lockdown.

"Highlands Intermediate took appropriate action based on their action plans and within the guidelines of our Department of Education to ensure the safety and well being of all the students here on campus," Sheldon Oshio, DOE complex area superintendent, said.

As police investigated the shooting, many worried parents flocked to the school in their desperate search for information.

"I'm not confident in the way that they handled the situation," Venus Acker said. "They should have notified the parents to let us know what happened and if the children were okay."

Because of a school rule prohibiting students from using cell phones, Alaysha Young couldn't contact her mother about the gun incident on campus.

"That concerns me a lot when something like this happens and my daughter can't text me to let me know what's going on," Audra Walker, Alaysha's mother, said.

Tiffany Acker wasn't as concerned about the consequences.

"I called my mom when we were in our homeroom," she said. "Then, as I was texting my mom, my dad called."

The vice principal sent a letter to parents Monday afternoon, saying the school executed its emergency plans to keep students and employees safe.

"The school did a really good job of assessing the incident," Oshio said. "They assessed the situation and took care of the situation."

Parents who got word early were allowed to pick up their children. But they wondered why the school didn't go into lockdown.

"For a situation like this, for me to just walk in a school, I don't think that's the right answer," Walker said. "The school should have been on lockdown."

"The people involved in the incident were in the administration and school was running under normal operating conditions," Oshio said.

The following is the letter Highlands Intermediate sent home to parents Monday:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

I wanted to inform you about a serious incident that took place on our campus this morning involving a discharged firearm. Through the expeditious efforts of our security personnel, a suspect was quickly isolated and apprehended.   Unfortunately, one of our students sustained minor injuries from building fragments.  However, we are glad to report that the student is doing well.

School administrators immediately reported  this incident to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) emergency personnel.  Highlands Intermediate extends its gratitude and thanks to HPD and HFD for their swift action and focused attention to our collective safety.  Our school administrators will continue to cooperate with HPD in its investigation of this incident.

Please know that your child's safety will continue to be a top concern.  During this incident, school staff worked together to execute our safety and emergency plans to keep our students and employees safe.  I would personally like to commend our staff for their collaborative efforts in addressing this situation.

I am asking parents and guardians to remind their child/children that firearms are dangerous instruments and do not belong in school, on the school bus, at school-related activities, or in their backpacks.  Under Chapter 19, possession of a firearm leads to serious punishment for offenders and is classified as a Class A offense.  Bringing a firearm, including air guns and any instrument that may be readily converted to expel a projectile, to school is also a violation of the Hawaii Gun-Free Schools Act.  Any student who violates the Hawaii Gun-Free Schools Act shall be removed from attending school for not less than one calendar year.  Only the superintendent, on a case-by-case basis, may modify the removal of the student.

By working together, we will ensure that are children develop into nurturing, caring and responsible citizens.  Again, mahalo for your continued support of Highlands Intermediate School.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 453-6480.

Ellen Fujino
Vice Principal

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