GULFPORT -- A loaded handgun and ammo that police say was brought to school Thursday in a 14-year-old student's book bag were seized 10 minutes after a fellow student reported it, and Police Chief Leonard Papania said Friday of the boy who sounded the alert, "That kid's a hero."
"Significant harm could have been done," he said.
The weapon is a .22-caliber Ruger Mark III target pistol. Police said they also seized an extra magazine, bringing the ammo count to 100 bullets.
The Sun Herald talked Friday with the student who'd alerted the principal. His mother was also present at the interview.
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He said a lot of kids knew about the gun, and some as early as first period.
He heard about it in a later class, he said, when his friends told him, "Stay away from him if you don't want to get shot."
Soon after, the boy said, he was approached by the student with the gun and told, "I got this gun."
"He said it in a threatening way."
He was wearing the gun in his waistband with a jacket over it, the boy said, which he opened to show the weapon.
"I saw the handle of it," the boy said. "It was a pretty decent size gun."
He was scared, he said, and went to the office to report what he'd seen.
"I know people could have got shot if I didn't say anything," the young hero said.
"They instantly went over to the police officer," the boy said, referring to the Gulfport Police Department's on-site school resource officer. Officials went looking for the student, who by then was walking to his classroom.
His mother noted her son asked the other students if anyone had told an adult. No one knew if anyone had, so he said he would report it.
"He was afraid the boy was coming after him, but the boy just said, 'I have a gun,'" the mother said.
A school official called police at 12:26 p.m.
Police went to the classroom and sent all students out except the boy they'd been told had the gun. Then the boy gave the gun to police, officials said.
Police said they arrested the boy at North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade School on Thursday on a charge of possession of a weapon at school. The school, in the Harrison County School District, is on Illinois Avenue just off U.S. 49.
The name of the boy who alerted the principal is not being revealed because of possible retribution. But his mother said, "I'm extremely proud of what he's done. I've seen the comments on Facebook. It's OK for him to talk, but I want him to be protected."
His principal praised him and thanked him in the media, though not by name. He said Friday police at school had taken him aside and said they would ask that he be considered for a civilian citation.