Felony charges filed against Queen Creek student after bringing gun to school

The 9-year-old student was charged with a minor in possession of a firearm and interference with or disruption of an educational institution.
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 10:29 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2022 at 8:57 PM MST
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QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Pinal County Attorney’s Office has filed charges against a 4th-grade student who reportedly brought a gun to a Queen Creek School in August.

The Queen Creek Police Department investigation revealed that a nine-year-old brought a gun onto the Legacy Traditional School campus on Thursday, Aug. 25. Monday, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office announced they have formally charged the student with minor in possession of a firearm and interference with or disruption of an educational institution, both felonies.

Officials with the county attorney’s office also reviewed potential charges submitted by Queen Creek Police but concluded that the student’s parents would not be charged with a crime. “Given the inherent danger involved with a gun being on a school campus, PCAO must take this seriously,” said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. “However, it is important to appreciate that the juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation and correcting behavior, and that will be our focus.”

Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Russ Richelsoph says it may be unknown for some time what exactly the rehabilitation will be for the student. “This is going to take a while, especially if there’s a juvenile competency evaluation that determines that the individual is not currently competent. What will happen is the court can order the juvenile to essentially have a tutor,” he said.

However, not everyone agreed with the charges. Attorney Tom Ryan was shocked when he heard Volkmer charged the 4th-grader with two class six felonies. “His non-charging decision makes zero sense in this circumstance. His charging felonies for a little boy that didn’t threaten anybody, didn’t point it at anybody, didn’t intimidate anybody, didn’t hurt anybody with it makes zero sense,” Ryan explained.

Richelsoph says the student isn’t ready to stand trial. Instead, he’ll have six months to understand and prepare for the legal process and how it could play out. When it comes to parents not being charged for contributing to delinquency, he says the county attorney has to believe they have probable cause. “It saves resources when a county attorney looks at a case, looks at it honestly, and says look we’re not going to be able to prove this, they’re saving tax-payer dollars by not charging it,” he said.

However, by not following Queen Creek police’s recommendations, Ryan thinks a dangerous message has been sent to Pinal County residents. “Other parents can say we don’t have to worry about locking our guns and letting our children get them because hey, look what happened there, Volkmer’s not going to charge us,” he said.