(WMC-TV) - A kindergartner is in police custody after a handgun he reportedly brought to school in his backpack discharged in an elementary school cafeteria.
According to Shelby County Schools, the gun went off around 7:40 a.m. at Westside Elementary School in Frayser. When police were initially notified, they were told it might be a BB gun. A second call reportedly went out to police around 8:21 a.m. That is when they were informed a shot had been fired from a real gun.
"We thought it was a balloon, everybody thought it was a balloon that popped, but it wasn't a balloon at all," said 5th grader, Brikera Gilkey.
As soon as media learned of the incident, SCS released the following statement:
"This morning at Westside Elementary School, a Kindergarten student brought a firearm to school in his backpack. While waiting for the opening bell in the cafeteria, the firearm discharged accidentally inside the child's backpack. Nobody was injured, and staff immediately took possession of the backpack. SCS Security and the Memphis Police Department responded quickly, and the matter is now under investigation. There is no evidence at this time of harmful intent; however, weapons of any kind are prohibited on campuses, and this student will be disciplined in accordance with the state's zero tolerance policy. The safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. Staff is trained to handle emergency situations, and all students were kept safe and calm while this matter was handled."
When Action News 5 asked why police were not called until one hour after the shot was fired, an SCS spokesperson responded in another written statement:
"It's not uncommon for Shelby County Schools Security Officers to arrive on a scene before local law enforcement. SCS security officers are armed and trained to handle emergency situations in schools. In this case, staff controlled the situation immediately and district security arrived within minutes. The situation was assessed and controlled at the school. The situation was contained prior to MPD's arrival at the school."
Parents were not notified of the shooting, in fact, many on the scene said they learned about it from media reports.
In a third e-mail to Action News 5, an SCS spokesperson stated:
"The district has a ParentLink system (automated calls) which is generally used for school-wide emergency situations," said an e-mail sent from SCS. "Because this was an isolated and controlled situation that occurred before the school day started and did not involve any individual or school-wide threat, the system was not used. Letters to parents will be going home with students this afternoon."
"We are equally as concerned as parents and we take it very seriously that this happened, it happens that this child brought a gun to school in his backpack," said Shelby County Schools Chief Communication Officer Emily Yellin.
School went on as normal after the situation was brought under control Thursday.
To read the letter sent home to parents Thursday afternoon, click here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/westsideparents.pdf