La Joya ISD Police Chief Raul Gonzalez is thankful for the action of one 4-year-old boy last week.
It was because of that 4-year-old, an assistant teacher was informed that one of the child’s classmates brought a gun to school and the gun was confiscated, Gonzalez said. The incident occurred at Benavides Elementary School in Sullivan City on Thursday.
Gonzalez said Monday morning he planned to take a gift to the family of the 4-year-old who passed on the information on behalf of Crime Stoppers.
That morning, Gonzalez said, the pre-K student with the gun told his classmate he had it in his backpack during PE. When the students went back to class, the classmate told the assistant teacher.
“That’s the impressive part about it because 4 year olds think about a lot of different things,” Gonzalez said.
Within minutes, the assistant teacher confirmed there was a gun in the backpack and took the backpack to the lead teacher, who picked the gun up, hoping it was a toy. When she felt how heavy it was, she realized it was real. The teacher took it to the principal’s office, where it was locked in a safe and the police department was called.
“That it happened? Yes,” Gonzalez said. “Were we prepared to handle it? Yes. We tell this to all kids: Anytime you hear of someone doing something inappropriate or bringing something inappropriate, especially a weapon, to school, it is very important that you tell somebody.”
The 4-year-old who brought the gun had been dropped off at school, and he hadn’t told anyone else about the weapon, not even his older sibling, who also attends Benavides Elementary. Gonzalez said some of the boy’s family are good members of the community and were disappointed when they heard what happened.
“I personally interviewed him, and I can say this with 100 percent certainty: He had no malicious intent whatsoever. He hadn’t been threatened by anybody, had not threatened anybody. He didn’t want to harm anybody. He was just curious, bottom line.”
He said the district didn’t call a lockdown because the gun was secured and officials didn’t feel it was needed. Officers with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office were on campus speaking for Red Ribbon Week, and Gonzalez said he asked them to incorporate gun safety into their presentations.
The chief also pointed out that the Glock wasn’t readily dischargeable, meaning had bullets but there was not one in the chamber. A shooter would have had to pull back the slide at the top of the weapon to put a bullet in the chamber, Gonzalez said, demonstrating with his own weapon that he didn’t think a 4-year-old would have the strength to do it.
Gonzalez said the district was still discussing a punishment for the boy, and it will be in line with the district’s Student Code of Conduct. They’ll look at the totality of the circumstances, he said, and keep in mind that the boy is well-behaved in the classroom and didn’t have the intention of hurting anyone.
“Kids make mistakes. Some will make some very serious mistakes like this, but at the end of the day, the one thing that we’re never going to do as a school district is turn our backs on the kids because we understand that the only way that you’re going to be successful in life is to have a good education,” Gonzalez said, adding that Superintendent Alda Benavides reminds him that the district is there to educate children, not put them behind bars.
And with the opening of hunting season, Gonzalez said it’s a good time for parents to talk to their children about gun safety.
“It’s important that we never get tired of telling kids they’re not supposed to bring weapons to school, drugs to school,” Gonzalez said. “We had a plan in place, and it worked.”