The Ottumwa Courier

December 31, 2012

Gun-spotting student made the right call

He let police figure out if BB pistol being displayed was real

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — With recent shooting tragedies still a national topic of conversation, one young Ottumwa resident was unwilling to tell himself, “It’s probably nothing.” He saw a teenager stuff a handgun into their waistband before the walked into the public library.

A high school senior (unnamed due to his age) doing some volunteer work in Central Park saw the teenager waving a handgun around, showing off to a group of other teens Friday afternoon. The teen then concealed the handgun in his clothing — and walked into the Ottumwa Public Library.

The volunteer from the high school called 911. Multiple police officers arrived, and, according to a witness, pulled the potentially armed teenager out of the library. The “gun” being waved about outside of the library turned out to be a BB pistol.

Yet police and other adults said the high school senior showed maturity and caring when he dialed the emergency number.

“I think he did the right thing,” said Sgt. Brian Johnson with the Ottumwa Police Department.

He said that the subject was a juvenile.

“After that tragic shooting in Connecticut, any of those shootings, you can’t just ignore [potential] danger,” said Tony Yencsik, one of the other volunteers on the Central Park project. “He told me he’d never called 911 in his life. I told him, ‘You did exactly the right thing.’ I was very proud of him.”

Ottumwa police agree.

“We would encourage anyone in that situation to call. They have no way to determine what an individual’s intentions are. And unless they’re some sort of firearms expert, they had no way of knowing whether that gun is real or not,” Johnson said.

And, he added, there’s no need to overreact, as there are plenty of people with permits who are lawfully carrying a concealed weapon. But a teenager showing off for his friends, then going into a crowded public place? That worried the caller enough to let police know what he saw.

“I think he used very good judgment,” Yencsik said.

And in that case Friday afternoon, agreed the officer, someone needed to determine what the situation was.

“That’s our job to [figure out], not for [the public] to try and guess. Anytime something looks out of place, we’d encourage [the public] to call,” he said.