BELLVILLE — Clear Fork High School and Middle School were placed in lockdown Tuesday while school administrators and law enforcement personnel investigated reports of firearms on school property.
Maj. Dale Fortney of the Richland County Sheriff’s Office said an unloaded .38 caliber revolver and two suspects had been secured by school personnel when deputies, along with members of Bellville Police Department and the Ohio State Patrol, arrived at the school.
“Clear Fork School administration took decisive action to ensure the safety of students and staff,” Fortney said. “At no time were students or staff in any danger. ... We applaud the decisive action by the Clear Fork High School administration and the quick response by our deputies and partner agencies to protect our most valuable resource, our children.”
Fortney reported that an 18-year-old student, Benjamin Weirich, apparently brought the revolver from home, without ammunition, to give it to another student, age 17. Although the serial numbers were partially defaced, further investigation revealed the revolver had been stolen in a burglary in February. Fortney said another firearm, a 9mm High Point semi-automatic pistol from the same burglary, also with partially defaced serial numbers, was subsequently recovered from Weirich’s home, along with ammunition.
Fortney said there was no intent on Weirich’s part to threaten or harm anyone at school, adding, “The intent was to transfer possession of a stolen firearm.”
Clear Fork school superintendent Matthew Dill credited the other high school students for the peaceful resolution of the situation: “Our students told us [about the gun]. Fortunately we have a great rapport with our kids and when something isn’t right, they let us know, which is tremendous. We hope that they continue to do that. ... Our staff, our students, our local law enforcement did a tremendous job yesterday. Everyone did what they were supposed to do and we kept kids safe.”
“This is why we have ‘lockdown drills’ on a regular basis,” Dill continued. “Within an hour, the buildings were out of lockdown and students were back in our cafeteria eating lunch and in our classrooms learning.”
Weirich was arrested on a third-degree felony charge of tampering with evidence, with additional weapons-related charges possibly coming from the Richland County Grand Jury. He is being held at the Richland County Jail.
The 17-year-old was arrested for delinquency by reason of possession of a firearm in a school safety zone. Fortney said additional weapons-related charges may be levied against the youth, who is detained at the Richland County Juvenile detention Center.
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