- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

Prince William County police have charged a 13-year-old Woodbridge boy with firing a gun on a school bus and said the weapon likely belonged to the boy’s father — a U.S. Park Police officer.

The boy “was just showing off for his buddies,” said Sgt. Dennis Mangan, a spokesman for the Prince William County police. “He didn’t mean to hurt anybody. It went off and surprised him.”

No one was hurt. Police said the shooting appeared to be accidental.

Police said the shooting happened at about 3:15 p.m. Thursday on a county school bus that was taking students home from Saunders Middle School in Manassas.

Police said the gun discharged and a bullet went through the roof.

School officials said the bus driver thought the loud bang was a firecracker and immediately pulled the bus over near the intersection of Spriggs Road and Anthony Drive in Woodbridge.

“We know that the bus driver acted very quickly to get the students off the bus and make sure that they weren’t on the road and in harm’s way,” schools spokesman Phil Kavits said.

Police learned that the boy’s father is a U.S. Park Police officer.

Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said that the agency is conducting an internal investigation and that it has placed one of its officers on restricted duty with pay. He did not identify the officer, citing the investigation.

The boy, who was not identified, was charged with reckless handling of a firearm and possession of a firearm on school property. Police said the boy likely kept the gun at school during the day.

“It looks like he probably had it in his book bag getting on the bus, that’s why no one saw it,” Sgt. Mangan said.

The boy was released to the custody of his parents.

Mr. Kavits said the boy and another student who reportedly was looking at the gun on the bus have been “excluded” from school, meaning they cannot return until school officials meet with their parents to determine appropriate disciplinary measures.

“I’m certain there will be very, very strict action,” Mr. Kavits said.

Mr. Kavits said school officials called the parents of each student who was on the bus immediately after the incident and used an auto-dialer to leave a voice message about the incident at the homes of all the school’s students in the past two days.

Officials spent yesterday morning talking to Saunders students about the incident and the dangers guns can pose.

They also sent students home with a letter for parents describing the incident and urging parents to talk about guns with their children.

Alison Nourse-Miller, an associate superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools, said officials are working with police to determine what could have been done to prevent the incident.

“We are tremendously grateful that no one was hurt, but horrified that this incident happened,” she said.

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