A Columbus East High School teacher was escorted off school property after two students said they spotted a rifle in plain view on the passenger seat of his pickup.
The teacher, identified by school officials as Mike Metz, a Columbus Area Career Connections construction technology instructor, was at his truck when Columbus Police officers arrived just after 8:49 a.m. Thursday about the report of the rifle, school officials said.
Metz has worked for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. as a workplace specialist in different trades since February 2006, school officials said. He told police had been coyote hunting and mistakenly left the gun in the pickup, school officials said. Metz took responsibility for making a mistake of leaving the gun in the truck, school officials said.
Police and school officials have not released details about the type of rifle, whether it was loaded or whether the truck was locked.
With any investigation, there are certain details that police do not disclose prior to turning the case over to the prosecutor’s office, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.
School resource officer Julie Quesenbery, assigned to Columbus East by the Columbus Police Department, is completing a report about the incident, Harris said.
Metz was not arrested after Thursday’s incident, police said.
When contacted by phone by The Republic, Metz did not comment.
Metz has been restricted from returning to the school pending a continuing police and school investigation into the incident, said Larry Perkinson, BCSC employee and student assistance coordinator.
State law says a person who legally possesses a firearm and who knowingly, intentionally or recklessly leaves the firearm in plain view in a motor vehicle that is parked in a school parking lot commits a Class A misdemeanor. Other parts of the law make the offense a felony, but Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash said the subsection listed as a misdemeanor is most relevant to what occurred Thursday at East.
A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000, according to state law.
BCSC school policy prohibits staff members from possessing, storing, making or using a weapon in any setting within the school corporation, although it allows for the provision contained in state law to have a firearm or ammunition locked in a truck or stored out of plain sight, such as locked in a glove compartment.
There also is an exception for students who lock a firearm in the trunk or glove compartment as part of competing or practicing as part of a shooting sports team.
The BCSC policy states an employee who violates the weapons policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. sent out an alert about the incident that went to parents by text message Thursday morning.
School officials said there was never an active threat in the incident and all the buildings and students were safe, the alert stated.
Thursday’s incident follows a series of arrests and warnings last week involving school threats at East, Hauser High School in Hope and the Simon Youth Academy at Edinburgh Premium Outlets north of Columbus.
On Feb. 20, a Hauser High School student reported that another 15-year-old Hauser student threatened to kill him. The same day, a male juvenile at East was arrested by Columbus police on an intimidation charge after making a threat on social media on SnapChat suggesting the school would be “shot up” in two days.
On Feb. 21, East experienced another threat on social media when students accidentally activated the fire alarm, and while outside a student received a threat via social media about violence toward the school and students. He was also arrested by Columbus police on an intimidation charge.
Also that day, Hauser High School students reported they had overheard a threat the previous week, which was reported to Hope police officers. In addition to that report, a 16-year-old Youth Academy student who was accused of drawing a sketch depicting a shooting scene and showing it to some of his classmates was arrested by Edinburgh police on an intimidation charge.