CONFLUENCE – A doctor with a permit to carry a concealed weapon was charged with having a gun on school property when he picked up his child from a Southwestern Pennsylvania high school about three hours after the school shootings last month in Newtown, Conn.
State police announced Wednesday they had charged 41-year-old chiropractor Charles King II, of Rockwood, because the state school code prohibits weapons on school property in most instances – though they are also hopeful a future court ruling will clarify the law.
Police waited nearly three weeks to file the charges because they’re not sure whether King’s carry permit was an exception. Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser told police she doesn’t believe permitted carriers are exempt.
“We feel that with the way (the law) is worded, at this time, charges are appropriate,” said Cpl. William Link of the state police barracks in Somerset. “We will let the courts determine that interpretation.”
King didn’t immediately return a call for comment Thursday, but he told WJAC-TV in Johnstown before the charges were filed that it was an honest mistake.
Link doesn’t dispute that. He said King wasn’t disorderly, threatening or trying to prove a point – nor did he brandish or handle the weapon when he arrived at Turkeyfoot Valley Area High School about 12:30 p.m. Dec. 14. King merely had the gun with him when a school employee noticed and reported it.
Link said King apparently wasn’t aware of the Connecticut shootings earlier that day in which a gunman killed 20 elementary school students and six school officials before shooting himself.
King, who regularly volunteered at the school, has been banned from school property and has also had his carry permit revoked by the county sheriff, though he can appeal that decision.
The school has policies and signs prohibiting weapons, but the state law that undergirds them isn’t as clear. That’s because the law says, “It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.”
The question in this case is whether King’s having a permit constitutes a “lawful purpose.”
Lazzari-Strasiser said she encouraged police to file the charges because surveillance video shows a sign prohibiting weapons where King entered the building.
He’s charged with possessing a weapon on school property, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum five-year prison term. He also was cited for criminal trespass — because having a gun allegedly made it illegal for him to enter the school — which carries a small fine or up to 90 days in jail.
King wasn’t arrested and cooperated with the police investigation, Link said. The charges were to be mailed to him.