Teen admits having gun at Bentonville High School
BENTONVILLE – A 14-year-old boy admitted having a loaded gun at Bentonville High School last week but said he needed the gun for his protection.
The teenager pleaded guilty Friday morning to owning a gun on school premises.
He was arrested on February 4th and has been in the Benton County Detention Center since his arrest.
One student told school staff and clerks that the teenager could have a gun. According to a Bentonville Police Department press release, officers quickly found the student and found a 9mm pistol.
Benton County Circuit judge Tom Smith had difficult questions for the youth before accepting his plea and the recommendation to suspend his sentence. This means the youth will not be placed in an Arkansas Division of Youth Services facility.
The judge wanted to know from whom and where the teen got the gun.
“If I feel like I’m not getting the truth from you, I’ll put you in DYS until you’re 21,” said Smith.
The teenager told a story in which he got the gun from a man whose name he did not know.
Assistant Attorney Mason Reynolds interrupted the youth and told the judge that another youth had confessed to giving him the gun.
Smith warned the teenager of the importance of being honest.
“Why did you look for a gun when you were 14?” asked the judge.
The teenager said he had no intention of harming anyone but believed he needed the gun for protection because he had received text messages threatening him.
“I have people threatening to stab and shoot me,” said the teenager.
“He was bullied quite a lot,” said Lora Noschese, the teen’s attorney. “His mother saw some of the news.”
The boy’s mother told the judge that she saw threatening messages on her son’s phone and that he once came home with a black eye. His father was in the courtroom too.
Smith said the teen who owned the loaded gun in the school was a dangerous crime. He asked the teen again why he had the gun.
The teenager replied that he was scared.
Reynolds told the judge he had received an affidavit from a police officer stating that the teen was in a gang along with the teen who gave him the gun and others.
Noschese denied this claim.
Smith said 95% of the people who show up in his courtroom don’t have two people to attend to them.
“Most don’t have one and you have two,” said Smith.
Smith accepted the agreement to suspend a child welfare service, but warned the youth that there is now no tolerance.
The teenager was released from the detention center but has to wear a home surveillance unit for 90 days. He must also take part in the consultation.
The teenager’s mother told the judge she appreciated the support.
Smith told her to monitor her son’s social media. She told the judge it wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Smith ordered the teen not to have any contact with the teen who gave him the gun.
“Don’t cross that line again,” said Smith.
The school district manual requires expulsion for the type of crime the teenager committed, said Leslee Wright, district director of communications. However, she added that data protection laws prohibit her from confirming the expulsion of any particular student.
Wright declined to comment on the teen’s admission of guilt on Friday, but thanked the student for informing authorities about the gun and the two officers who responded.
“We owe all three of us thanks,” Wright said.
The district has a hotline for students and others to report safety concerns at the school at 479-367-8080. This hotline is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Approximately 2,150 students attended Bentonville High School in person, and an additional 750 students attended school practically on February 1.
Source: Bentonville School District
Tracy M. Neal can be reached via email at [email protected] or Twitter @NWATracy.