By KATIE MOEN
For Union County HAWK
CLARK — A 16-year-old student is facing possession charges after bringing a handgun to Arthur L. Johnson High School on Friday. The incident triggered a school-wide lockdown and resulted in evacuation.
At approximately 10 a.m. on Friday, the Clark Police Department received a call from a member of the administration at Arthur L. Johnson High School about a student in possession of a handgun within the school.
According to information provided by the police department, “the building was immediately placed on lockdown and Clark officers responded to the school where they took the student into custody and recovered the firearm.”
The juvenile student, who has not been identified, was taken into police custody and charged with 2nd Degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and 3rd Degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in an Educational Institution.
Police said there were no indications of threats or harm to the school, students or personnel during the incident. The student will remain in police custody while awaiting his trial.
Members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Union County Police Department and Union County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the scene.
Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said in a public statement that the gun was not loaded. Union County K-9 units were called to search the property and the rest of the student body, “to make sure that there weren’t any other weapons and to ensure a safe return [on Monday].”
The students were then evacuated to the township’s municipal building as per the district’s lockdown policy.
“We have had some parents say that they weren’t notified quickly enough, but guess what?” Mayor Bonaccorso said. “The school district’s first priority is your child’s safety, first and foremost. That has to happen before anyone can pick up a phone and start making calls.”
Despite the frightening nature of the event, Mayor Bonaccorso said things were handled “as well as humanly possible” thanks to the cooperative efforts of the different agencies that responded.
“As the mayor, I’m in charge, but I trusted the professionals on site and they were professional,” he said. “I have a child in the school. My wife works in the school. We all get a little nervous, and that’s absolutely right because we’re human and we love our families, but trust the people who are out here, because as your mayor, I can say that I trust them and they did a great job.”
Students were allowed to return to school for a normal schedule on Monday, police said.
“We want to assure you that the building has been thoroughly searched and found to be safe,” the Clark Police Department said Friday. “CPD is continuing their investigation into the incident. Thus far, the investigation has not given us any indication that there were any stated threats at the time and no indication that there are any present or future threats related to the incident. You may see an officer at the school during the day; this is simply for everyone’s comfort and safety.”
Though Mayor Bonaccorso said the incident was “something we would all like to quickly forget,” it also helped to point to certain reassurances throughout the system.
“I think it was a job well done. I was very proud of the response from our law enforcement and the school district,” Mayor Bonaccorso said. “I’d also like to commend the children. They came over to the [municipal building]. I was there with them throughout the day, and the kids were just fabulous as always. I would always expect our kids to be the best and they were, they really were.”
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