Police: Two students in custody after bringing gun and ammunition to school

Wilson Junior High School in Manitowoc, seen March 14, 2017. (WLUK/Andy Harbath)

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WLUK) -- Manitowoc police say two 14-year-old boys are in custody for bringing a loaded gun and ammunition inside Wilson Junior High School.

Capt. Larry Zimney says two student tips to the school’s resource officer potentially saved the day.

“That simple action could have avoided a big, big tragedy today,” said Zimney. “They really did a great job.”

The students told the officer they believed a gun was in the school. Police investigated and found a loaded .22 caliber revolver in one student's backpack, and ammunition in another student's backpack.

“It was kind of a surprise to think there are kids in this school that could have brought in guns,” said Owen Opichka, a ninth-grade student at the school.

Opichka's mother wonders why the school wasn't put into a lockdown.

“Maybe they have a set of rules that they follow, but it's scary,” said Theresa Opichka.

“At the time when we actually got the tips, we knew where the student was that was in concern, so the student was actually in administration's office while we were doing the investigation, so at that point we did not feel like we were under any threat,” said Mark Holzman, the superintendent for the Manitowoc Public School District.

One of the students taken into custody is in eighth grade, the other is in ninth grade.

Police say the gun came from a relative of one of the boys.

“That student felt the need for protection from another group that he felt threatened by, so that is the apparent reason why he brought the gun to school,” said Zimney.

Police say the boys were part of a dispute with another group of students. However, they couldn't say what the dispute was about.

Police say some of the students involved claim to be affiliated with a gang.

“I'm not even going to mention what the name of it is, but it's not something you normally hear of,” said Zimney.

“I give them props, the kids that brought it up to the adults,” said Owen Opichka.

The boys taken into custody face possible expulsion. Police say they also face multiple criminal charges and will be held in a juvenile facility for at least the next 72 hours.

Extra police will be patrolling Wilson Junior High Wednesday. Counselors will also be there for students.

Wilson Junior High School officials released the following message to families regarding the incident:

Dear Wilson Families,
The purpose of this message is to inform you of an unfortunate incident that occurred at Wilson Junior High School today. Thankfully, all students and staff are safe. This afternoon we worked closely with the Manitowoc Police Department and are releasing the following joint press release:
On March 14th, the Wilson Junior High School Resource Officer got two tips from students that there was a gun in the school. Using the information from the tips, .22 caliber ammunition was found in a student's backpack. Following additional investigation, a loaded .22 caliber revolver was recovered from a second student's backpack without incident. Two Wilson Junior High School students were taken into custody. The Manitowoc Police Department and the Manitowoc Public School district are working cooperatively and the investigation is ongoing. The Manitowoc Public School District will follow the guidelines set forth in School Board Policy 5610, Suspension and Expulsion. The safety of all students and staff is very important. The Manitowoc Public School District and Manitowoc Police Department will do all it can to ensure the safety of all students and staff.
I am proud of the students who reported what they heard or saw to school staff. The collaboration with the police department has been tremendous. We will continue to do all we can do ensure the safety of our students and staff. Please take time to have a conversation with your child about school safety and the importance of reporting important information to appropriate officials.
Please contact me if you have anything you would like to discuss.
Mr. Lee Thennes, Principal

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