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Chester County Press

District Attorney won't charge parent who left gun in car at Patton Middle School

09/25/2015 08:32AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The parent who left a gun in his unlocked car at Patton Middle School on Sept. 3 will not face criminal charges, according to a report from Chester County District Attorney's office.

The report, issued on Sept. 24, follows an investigation into the incident, which sparked concert among parents of students at Patton Middle School and Unionville High School, which is nearby.

According to the report, the parent – who is unidentified because he has not been charged with a crime – has a daughter at Patton Middle School.

“The parent is 46 years old. He has no prior criminal history,” the report reads. “The parent and his wife have six children, including two children with special needs. The parent is a sales representative and also owns businesses that deal with cash. As a result, he sometimes carries cash and valuable merchandise in his vehicle. For the purpose of self-protection, he obtained a compact Taurus 9mm firearm and was granted a concealed carry permit by the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. He has never fired the weapon.”

On Sept. 3, the report explains, the parent's wife was scheduled to pick up their child at Patton Middle School for a dentist appointment. “However, the wife was at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to address a medical issue with another one of their children. She called the parent at work and asked him to pick up their child at Patton Middle School for the dentist appointment. The parent left work at approximately 1 p.m. and drove to the Patton Middle School. Because the day was extremely hot, he left the vehicle running to keep the air conditioning on, and went into the school to pick up his daughter. The parent mistakenly believed he had locked the vehicle. The parent stated that he did not remember that he had the firearm in the vehicle.

“A school security officer noticed the running and unoccupied car, and opened up the door to check on the circumstances. The security officer noticed the firearm in the door panel and called East Marlborough Police Department, who secured the firearm. The firearm was not visible from outside the vehicle, only once the door was opened. The firearm had a loaded magazine, but there was no round in the firing chamber.

“The incident was investigated by the Chester County Detectives and East Marlborough Police Department,” the report continued. “The parent and his family were fully cooperative with law enforcement and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District throughout the investigation.

Under Section 912 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, possession of a firearm in or on school property is a misdemeanor offense.

“After consultation with all parties, the District Attorney’s Office has determined that the parent will not be charged with a crime. The parent has agreed to surrender his carry permit, complete a basic firearms safety course which includes a review of the relevant laws on where firearms can be carried, and complete other basic safety requirements agreed to by all parties. The parent also volunteered to and will lawfully dispose of the handgun that was left in the vehicle.”

District Attorney Tom Hogan stated, “Firearms and schools do not mix, particularly in today’s environment. Responsible firearm owners know that they need to keep their weapons secured at all times. However, the District Attorney’s Office is not inclined to turn an otherwise law-abiding citizen into a criminal under these unique circumstances.”

School District Superintendent John Sanville stated, “There has been district-wide concern and outrage over this incident, understandably so. Guns do not belong on school grounds. Period. The safety of our students and staff in our buildings must never be compromised. First and foremost, schools must be places that are free from harm -- real, potential, or perceived -- and we will continue to do all that is necessary to ensure that at UCFSD.”

East Marlborough Police Chief Bob Clarke stated, “We appreciated the cooperation of the school district, the family, and the Chester County Detectives. This was a difficult situation that was addressed promptly and thoroughly.”

The District Attorney's report quotes the parent as saying, “This was a terrible lapse of judgment on my part. As the father of six kids, I would never want to endanger any children. I apologize to the parents and children at Patton Middle School and the entire school district.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].