SWAT officer shoots 8th grader


Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Mindy Kidd escorts her daughter Sabrina Kidd away from Milwee Middle School after a student was shot by a SWAT team officer Friday in Longwood.

The Associated Press
LONGWOOD - An eighth-grader was shot and wounded by a SWAT team officer in a school bathroom Friday after he pulled out a pellet gun that resembled a real weapon and raised it at a deputy, authorities said.
Christopher David Penley, 15, was on advance life support after he was shot at about 10 a.m. in suburban Orlando's Milwee Middle School, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said.
The nature of the teen's injuries was not known Friday.
Eslinger said the student brought a pellet gun, resembling a 9 mm handgun, in his backpack, and a classroom scuffle broke out after another student who saw the weapon reported it to teachers. He said Penley then used the gun to direct the other student into a closet, dimmed the lights and left the room.
From there, the sheriff said, he "traveled with this firearm throughout the campus."
"He was suicidal," Eslinger said. "During this standoff, and during the chase, the student said he was going to kill himself or die."
School security and a resource officer responded to the scene, and within minutes more than 40 officers, including SWAT and negotiators, were on scene, and had followed Penley into a bathroom near two full classrooms.
Eslinger said negotiators tried unsuccessfully start a dialogue with the boy.
"He did not respond. They pleaded with him to drop what was a - it looked like a 9 mm Beretta handgun," Eslinger said. "He refused to even comment. All he said was his first name. He did not drop the firearm."
He said the boy crossed over into an alcove and raised the gun at the deputy, prompting him to shoot the boy.
"At one time he held the gun to his neck. As the deputies attempted to establish dialogue, he raised the firearm and lethal force was used by the sheriff's office," Eslinger said.
Eslinger said investigators had still not yet determined what led Penley to bring the weapon to school.
However, those who knew Penley say he was being bullied at school and was unhappy.
He had run away from home several times, said Kelly Swofford, a neighbor whose 11-year-old son Jeffery is close friends with Penley.
"He came over last night and he said people were picking on him at school. I told him he needed to talk to his guidance counselor," she said.
However, she stressed that Penley was "not a violent child whatsoever."
Her son Jeffery said Penley talked about wanting to die when the two had breakfast Friday morning. He said Penley had been fighting with another boy, allegedly over a girl.
"Everybody knew they were going to fight" Friday, Jeffery said. "I heard a rumor that he had a BB gun, but I didn't think he really had one."
Phone calls to the home were not answered, and a person who answered the door declined comment. After visiting the Penleys' house, Kelly Swofford said the family was upset and didn't want to talk to reporters.
"They're devastated. They're a wreck," she said.
The sheriff's office said they learned only after the shooting that it was a pellet gun fashioned to look like a 9mm handgun, with no parts painted red or pink to indicate it was nonlethal.
Investigators presented the alleged weapon at a news conference alongside a real, similar-looking Beretta.
"As you can see, it doesn't take a professional to see how close this looks to the real thing. I would not be able to tell the difference." said Joyce Dawley, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge of the investigation.
Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, buses were called in early and frantic parents arrived to pick up their children from the 1,100-student public school in suburban Orlando. Resource officers were called to consult with faculty, and will also be available when school resumes Tuesday. Additionally, social workers were on scene to talk with children who remained waiting for a ride.
School Superintendent Bill Vogel stressed that the school followed all proper procedures.
"The school went into immediate code red, which is a lockdown," he said.
According to the Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm, it was the 48th nonfatal shooting nationwide since classes began in August.
Dawley said the FDLE, which handles all officer-involved shootings, called in three critical response teams because there were so many witnesses to interview. She said they had completed 25 interviews Friday, and expected to conduct another 10 to 12.
Sarah Tivy, a 12-year-old seventh grader, said some students were frightened during the incident, but she was calm.
"I just figured that if someone is going to bring a gun to school, then they need to be taken out of school," she said.
As television news crews cleared and darkness began to set in, Marie Hargis, whose 14-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter go to Milwee, stood in front of the school with a sign that read "Stop the violence."
"My kids go to school for education, not to worry about being shot at or held hostage," she said. "My youngest daughter is just very emotionally messed up. She started crying and said, 'Mommy, I don't want to go back.' They should not fear having to go to school."

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