When Isaiah Perry saw a gun crash to the floor of a hallway in Washington High School Tuesday afternoon, he took off running.
“I was walking to class and saw two kids play-fighting,” the ninth-grader said. “One kid dropped a gun, and I just ran to my class.”
Shocked and frightened, Perry said he informed his teacher of the incident. Within minutes, the school was placed on an hourlong lockdown.
“I was afraid it was going to go off,” Perry said.
Washington police Chief Chris Luppino said a 17-year-old Washington High School student was arrested in response to the incident. Luppino said the boy was involved in horseplay with another student about 2:50 p.m. when a gun fell from his pocket. Other students notified the school resource officer and students were placed on lockdown in their classrooms.
Through surveillance video and talking with witnesses, school officials were able to identify the student. Police did not release his name.
The suspect showed officials where he hid the gun. The weapon was unloaded and no ammunition was found, Luppino said.
Parents gathered outside the school waiting for their children while the lockdown was in place. Many parents said they were informed of the lockdown through text messages from their children, and not by the district.
Tammy Arroryo held back tears as she waited for her youngest to be released from the school. She was angry she didn’t receive an alert from the school district and at the lack of information that was being provided.
“I’m scared,” she said. “I understand that they won’t let us in. But to tell us nothing? Parents have been running up here screaming and crying.”
Arroryo’s daughter, Jordan, said students were told to be quiet and not to talk. She said they were allowed to text loved ones and tell them they were safe.
Students, who were supposed to be dismissed at 3 p.m. were held inside and finally dismissed shortly before 4 p.m.
Occasionally, pieces of information would trickle out from students or Principal Kenneth Patterson, parents said.
Patterson declined to make comment and directed media to the administration office. A statement was placed on the district’s website explaining the incident but did not provide additional information.
Davina Ruschel said that they were told the students were locked in classrooms and that the suspect did not have access to them.
“We were ensured our kids were safe,” Ruschel said. “I got a text message about it. I was absolutely fearful. I had two girls in there.”
Ruschel said some students thought the lockdown was part of a drill.
“My one daughter thought it was a drill. My other heard there was a gun,” she said. “I had to tell her it wasn’t a drill.”
Ruschel’s daughter, Mia Pattison, said she was in the band room at the time, and was told to be quiet.
“It was scary,” the eighth-grader said.
Last week, three students were shot outside of Brashear High School. The proximity of the two incidents, although miles and miles apart, had Lisa Russi on edge.
“It’s just too close,” she said.
Luppino said the boy was charged with a firearm violation and creating or risking a catastrophe. He was arrested and released to the juvenile probation department.
Washington School District Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo said this is the first time an incident like this has happened at the district. She said counseling will be provided to help students and staff cope with the incident.
Regardless, Perry said he’s still fearful.
“I don’t feel safe,” he said. “Knowing that it happened once, it can happen again.”