Inquiry continues in LHS gun case

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The investigation into a gun found at Luverne High School last week is ongoing, and the issue is being addressed by both school officials and law enforcement.

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, board chairman Steve Sanders brought the issue up.

“I feel very strongly that we’ve got to have a dialogue about it, not to point fingers, but to say, ‘Let’s talk about what went right and what we need to do better,’” Sanders said.

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During the meeting, a discussion was held about the dissemination of information relating to safety situations in schools.

“It’s a timing thing as to when parents need information,” said Crenshaw County School System attorney Mike Jones. “They need it as soon as you can give it to them. But we have to weigh it — we can’t tell the parents that everything’s ok until you know that everything’s ok. I think we can do a better job of communicating after the fact.”

After meeting with Jones and Superintendent of Education Kathi Wallace, Luverne principal Chuck Alford sent out a letter to parents, teachers and students detailing what is known about the situation so far.

According to Luverne Police Department investigator David Sankey, who is leading the investigation, all the facts in the letter are accurate.

The only part that could not be confirmed was a statement that “while the gun was loaded, it was missing its firing pin and therefore incapable of being fired.”

Luverne Assistant Police Chief Ed Billings said that while he never looked specifically at the firing pin, several bolts were missing from the pistol’s slide, which could affect its ability to be fired.

“It was really in bad shape mechanically,” Billings said. “I’d personally be afraid to even try to fire it.”
Sankey said that the investigation is ongoing.

“I’ve got a couple more people to interview, and then I should be ready to finish my report,” Sankey said.

He added that he’s not sure at this time if any charges will be fired.

The following is Alford’s letter, printed in its entirety.

“Dear Parents, Guardians and Custodians:

I know many of you have been concerned about the events that took place at Luverne School last week.

First of all, as a parent of two children that attend Luverne High School, I am just as concerned about their safety and welfare as you are for your children.

It is my responsibility to do everything I can to keep our students safe and provide a safe environment for their education.

Let me assure you that I have done that and will continue to do my best to fulfill that responsibility.

I have been hesitant to provide any information until I was better informed about the circumstances of a weapon being found on campus.

I will share with you what I know at this point.

On October 5, 2010, at approximately 10:45 a.m., it was reported to me that a weapon was found on campus by a City employee.

Out of an abundance of caution and not being sure as to how the gun came to be on campus, I called the authorities and locked down the school.

The authorities responded and did a thorough search.

No additional weapons were found.

As soon as it appeared that there was no danger to the students, I attempted to notify parents about what had taken place.

I hope you received that notice.

Until I was sure that the campus was safe, I did not feel it appropriate to issue any type of statement.

I felt my first responsibility was to be sure the students were safe.

I have been told that the gun was brought to the campus on the night before it was found.

I was further informed that it was not brought for any ill intent but rather to simply “show off.”

Apparently, the student became scared and discarded the gun.

I have been further informed that while the gun was loaded, it was missing its firing pin and therefore incapable of being fired.

I am sure the authorities will pursue whatever charges they deem appropriate and once we receive notification as to any students that were involved, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as well.

I know this information will probably reach you later than you would have liked.

I too would have liked to have been able to communicate with you sooner.

However, due to the nature of how things transpired and the investigation that is still ongoing I am providing this information to you as soon as I could.

Please accept my assurance that I will continue to do everything I can to maintain a safe campus.

I will do a complete evaluation of everything that transpired to see if there is anything we could have done better so that we can change our procedures in the future.

I would gladly accept any suggestions you may have.

I continue to solicit your help and support.

We have a great school and I want to do everything I can to maintain the excellence in education that you expect.


Charles Alford II”