MIDDLETON — Canyon County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a gun on a Middleton school bus Tuesday, but it turned out to be a realistic-looking toy.
Authorities were alerted after a second-grade student told teachers he spotted another second-grade student carrying a firearm during the ride into Middleton Heights Elementary School.
School officials, in turn, notified the sheriff’s office, who put the middle school and alternative school into soft lockdowns as 18 officers searched for the weapon.
“These types of situations require an immediate and overwhelming law enforcement response,” said Sheriff Kieran Donahue. “I’d like to thank the Middleton School District for their cooperation throughout the morning, and I’d also like to personally commend the young student for doing the right thing by alerting authorities.”
Donahue said he was pleased with his office’s response, and grateful that the weapon turned out to be fake — a toy revolver convincing enough to pass for real at first glance. But, he said, even a toy gun can be dangerous when an officer has to make a split-second, life-or-death decision.
Incidents like the one involving Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun shot dead by police in Ohio, are fresh in the memory of law enforcement officers and the general public, he said.
The Nov. 22 shooting of Tamir Rice by 26-year-old police rookie Tim Loehmann outside a recreation center sparked protests in the area.
Surveillance video shows Loehmann firing within two seconds of a patrol car stopping near Rice, who reached in his waistband for what turned out to be a pellet gun.
In Middleton, it will be up to the school, Donahue said, to talk to the student and the parents about the seriousness of bringing toy weapons to school.
The boy who brought the gun was suspended for at least two days, said Middleton Superintendent Richard Bauscher.
“We treat the toy gun just like a regular gun as far as threat of violence,” Bauscher said. “Our policy still addresses it.”
The principal at Middleton Heights will conduct a full interview with the student’s parents and determine if a longer suspension is necessary, Bauscher said.