Earlier this morning (Wednesday, Oct. 25), West Bladen High School was alerted to a vehicle on campus with a possible weapon in the car. Law enforcement was contacted by school administration. After obtaining a consent search from the driver of the vehicle, law enforcement searched the vehicle and found a handgun in the trunk of the car. The weapon has been removed from the campus without incident and is not related to any incident on campus. At no time were students or staff in any danger or threatened in any way. All activities on campus are operating on a normal schedule.
“School Resource Officer Matthew Long with the Sheriff’s Office received information late Tuesday that a student at West Bladen High School might be bringing a weapon on campus,” said Sheriff James A. McVicker. “As a precaution Deputy Long set up metal detectors to screen faculty, staff and students as they entered the school Wednesday morning. Deputy Long was in the parking lot and observed the suspect, 16-year-old Gabriel McDowell of Clarkton, get out of a car and when he saw the extra security and metal detectors he put a backpack he had with him back into the vehicle.”
McVicker said deputies were able to get consent for a search of the vehicle and located a 9mm handgun in the trunk. Statements from other students confirmed McDowell had possession of the weapon and that he also had it at the school on the previous Friday. McDowell was charged with two counts of felony possession of a firearm on educational property, two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, and two counts of possession of a handgun by a minor. McDowell’s bond was set at $85,000 secured.
“At no time were any members of the staff or student body in danger,” said McVicker. “The arrest was handled quickly and quietly and there was no disruption of the normal school day. My deputies worked together to insure the safety of everyone involved. Our investigation has not revealed any intent to do harm to anyone at the school. We were in constant contact with Superintendent Taylor and the staff at West Bladen.”
“Please know that student safety is our first priority, which is why we conduct various drills and review safety plans throughout the school year to practice for these types of situations. The faculty and administration at the school handled the situation quickly and followed our safety procedures,” said Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor.