Metro-East News

Belleville West cancels classes after report that student may have loaded gun in school

Classes were canceled for the day Monday after authorities received a report that a Belleville West High School student may have had a loaded gun on campus, according to police.

“It was reported to school personnel that a student may be in possession of a weapon,” Principal Rich Mertens said in a message sent to students and parents.

An initial investigation by police and school authorities revealed that a student said he brought the gun to school and left it in his book bag in his gym locker while he was in class, Belleville police wrote in a press release. The student returned to find “book bag had been searched by an unknown subject” and the gun was missing.

The school immediately went on lockdown, the release stated, and Belleville police “assisted by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, began assisting school staff with a systematic dismissal of the school.”

Mertens said in a message to parents late Monday that the school will reopen Tuesday with an increased police protection.

The dismissal on Monday was in “abundant caution” that an armed person was in the school.

“The dismissal was orderly, and law enforcement personnel were present with the students in the hallways as each classroom was dismissed. The investigation into this matter is ongoing, and BPD detectives continue to interview several juvenile subjects involved in this incident,” police wrote in the release.

Police were told about 11:15 a.m. Monday that someone may have a loaded gun on the campus at 4063 Frank Scott Parkway West.

Students who had a car were allowed to leave campus while students who were waiting for a parent to pick them up or for their bus to arrive were asked to wait in the school’s theater.

“Rest assured that no student will be forced to leave without a parent to pick them up,” Mertens said.

District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said the school has more than 2,200 students and they were released room by room.

Mertens sent a second message about 1 p.m. regarding the parents of students who had not yet been allowed to leave yet.

The delay was caused by the “systematic dismissal of students” under the direction of police officers, Mertens said.

“We understand this is a stressful time if you have to wait for the dismissal of your students,” Mertens said.

Dosier said it was too early to comment on the potential disciplinary action that could be taken in this case. He said police were given security video to review.

Police investigated an alleged threat against Belleville West in mid-December, after multiple people had overheard a student make the threat and then posted about it on social media.

It was later deemed not credible.

The school district just “tries to stay ahead” in situations like these, Dosier told the BND at the time.

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Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.