Finger Gun Leads to Arrest

Elizabeth Tuckness, Staff Editor

On September 18th 2019, a 13-year-old girl from Shawnee Mission was charged with a felony after making her hand into the shape of a gun and pointing it at other students. When asked by her classmate to point out “five people you would kill” she pointed at four students in the room and ended pointing at herself.

The Kansas City Star brought forward that students reported the incident through the school district’s anonymous reporting website for bullying. Westridge Middle School Principal Jeremy McDonnell investigated the situation. Following school protocol, he spoke with the students involved and afterwards felt the need to involve their Student Resource Officer (SRO).

The SRO felt there was a need to warrant the girl’s arrest. However, as this is a crime involving a minor, the details of her disciplinary history and history with bullying cannot be disclosed by the school.

“There were victims in this case who were generally in fear, and that prompted them to contact the school,” Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said to the Kansas City Star. Donchez supported the choice of arresting the girl for felonious threatening.

McDonnel walked the girl out of the school building, the school’s SRO cuffed her at the car, and she was driven off to a juvenile detention center.

In other similar cases, the person in question – child or adult – was charged with a misdemeanor or a lesser punishment. A jail sentence of no more than a year follows a misdemeanor charge, while a felony is a year minimum all the way up to life sentence with no parole.

CNN reported when a 10-year-old boy was charged with a misdemeanor and suspended from school for pointing his hand in the shape of a gun at the back of a classmate’s head and saying “boom.” No students noticed, but the teacher saw and pulled him out of the room.

KRDO News reported that 6-year-old boy Elijah was suspended for a day for pointing a finger gun at another kid and telling them “you’re dead” in line with the school’s Zero Tolerance policies against threatening.

The Washington Post reported Stephen Kirchner who was charged with disorderly conduct when he pointed a finger gun at his neighbor (that he already had a no contact order from). He further “recoiled” his arm and hand as to shoot him. He tried to appeal at court but was fined as a misdemeanor with a $100 fine and had to pay for all court charges.

In September, two 13-year-old boys in a Johnson County middle school were charged with misdemeanors for bringing guns in their backpacks into their school, but they weren’t charged any further because they showed no intention to use them. Their offence could only become a felony on the second misdemeanor offense.

Felonies can affect acceptance into different colleges, jobs, and restrict opportunities for those charged and convicted.

The Olathe School district operates under a Zero Tolerance of bullying and threatening in school and online. These are respectively Class II and Class III offences in the school district’s code of conduct and can be handled with anything from conferencing to suspension and police referral on dependency of severity.

Olathe North students were asked anonymously through a poll about their honest opinions of the Johnson County student’s arrest. After reading the article(s) The Kansas City Star wrote over the incident, the majority of students believed there was an overreaction on behalf of the girl’s school and the Overland Park police department.

“Finger guns are less threatening and dangerous than an unsharpened number 2 pencil. Especially when compared to actual guns being brought into the school,” Olathe North junior Ari Srivastava voiced.

A Johnson County 13-year-old girl was arrested with a felony charge for a finger gun, when two boys brought live guns into their schools and left with a misdemeanor charge.

“It bothers me that a young girl who was being bullied was arrested on account of a hand gesture,” Olathe North junior Neha Sridhar explained, “and that our society sees children doing anything remotely ‘threatening’ as something to warrant immediate and serious action, even when it is obvious they don’t mean to be threatening.”