Man arrested after bringing gun into school

JENNINGS COUNTY — A North Vernon man was arrested Thursday on two felony charges after police said he entered North Vernon Elementary School’s main office carrying a loaded firearm.

North Vernon police spokesman Sgt. Isaac Barkes said the man was identified by school staff as Eric E. Smith, 47, North Vernon. School staff said Smith asked about the school’s policy about bringing guns into school and then showed them he had a handgun on his person, Barkes said.

Staff members escorted Smith outside and notified Jennings Schools School Resource Officer Matt Staples. Smith did not get near any students, according to school staff.

Staples and Detective Wes Thayer interviewed Smith and his spouse separately at the North Vernon Police Department where they learned that Smith had made a statement two weeks earlier to his spouse that he was thinking about taking a gun to the school and addressing it with staff members, Barkes said.

Smith gave a verbal confirmation that he had the discussion approximately two weeks prior, and that he was told by his wife that it was a bad idea.

Smith was placed under arrest by Staples, and trespassed from all Jennings County School properties. Thayer recovered the firearm at Smith’s residence with the cooperation of his spouse as evidence in the investigation, Barkes said.

Smith is facing the following preliminary charges:

  • Possession of a firearm on school property, a Level 6 felony.
  • Intimidation, a Level 6 felony.

This incident follows threats by airdrops which occurred a week ago at Jennings County High School and middle school which resulted in school evacuations and lengthy searches of each facility.

School officials and police said any individual who threatens the safety or daily function of the schools or other businesses will be dealt with in a serious manner.

This incident also follows the newly enacted Constitutional Carry law in Indiana, which allows citizens to carry a handgun without a permit.

North Vernon police said that everyone who carries a handgun or intends to, should research the law. As a reminder, the ability to carry a gun does not transfer to certain locations, including but not limited to, school properties. State laws in place prohibiting the carrying of firearms on those premises will be enforced, and have strict consequences, police and school officials said.