5 students charged, 2 guns found following fight at Hopewell High School; 6th student facing charge

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Hopewell High School was placed on lockdown Wednesday afternoon and five students were taken into custody after two guns were discovered on campus, officials said. Now, a sixth student is facing a charge in connection with the fight.

It started after a handgun fell to the ground during a fight that broke out in between classes around 12:30 p.m. That gun was quickly picked up by a student, police said.

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“I didn’t see the gun, but when I did get there, I just seen a whole bunch of bullets on the floor,” one student told Channel 9.

Police were able to identify all the students involved in the fight through the in-school camera system, according to the Huntersville Police Department, and eventually took five students into custody. One of those students had another gun, which was loaded, according to authorities.

Huntersville police and a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools K-9 searched the building but could not find the first gun that was spotted after the fight.

When school was let out, a student on a school bus told the driver they saw a gun on the bus. Officers, who were still at the school, took another student into custody and said that gun was the one that dropped to the floor during the fight earlier.

Police seized a loaded Phoenix Arms, .22 pistol, and a Glock Model 34, 9mm pistol, which had been reported stolen.

Investigators said after speaking with the students involved, an attempted robbery took place earlier that morning between students. No weapons were displayed or insinuated during that crime, police said.

Detectives have not been able to identify a victim and said the alleged robbery is still under investigation. During class change, around 12:30 p.m., the fight started as a retaliatory action against the suspects in the earlier attempted robbery attempt, according to police.

All five students -- four boys and one girl -- have been charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds. The students’ names are being withheld because of their ages (17, 17, 17, 16 and 15).

On Friday, officials said a sixth student, 15, is facing a charge of assault.

Attorney general addresses guns in CMS schools

State Attorney General Josh Stein is on the task force for safer schools in North Carolina.

“I was on the phone this morning with District Attorney Spencer Merriweather,” Stein told Channel 9. “He’s been talking to the (superintendent) and local law enforcement. I’ve offered all assistance of my office, and we’re going to try to collaborate.”

Stein said metal detectors and parents locking up their weapons could help.

He said he wants more violence-interrupter programs but the bottom line is there is not a simple solution.

“We have to have every single option on the table with how to deal with this,” Stein said.

Parent Alethia Grubbs said her freshman son will not be attending Hopewell High in the future.

“We are going to pull him out and put him in home school for the remainder of high school,” Grubbs told Channel 9. “I was very disappointed, very panicked. I just felt like his life could be in danger.”

She said the school is not a good environment.

“Having to not get your chance to learn because of the lockdowns,” Grubb said. “Putting your heads down, doing nothing in one room. I don’t know how a kid can learn like that.”

Grubbs said the best option for her students is to leave the district and search for alternatives.

“I feel bad for the parents who have to stay,” Grubbs said. “The kids who have to stay, even the staff and administration. I don’t think anybody’s safe.”

Below is the message sent to parents from Hopewell High School:

“Titan families and students,

“This is Principal Pickard with an important message about incidents that occurred at our school today. We received information that led to a lockdown and a search by law enforcement for a firearm on campus. During the search, a firearm was found in a student’s book bag. In a separate incident during dismissal, a bus driver observed two students with a firearm, which also was recovered by law enforcement. No threat was made in either incident, and all students and staff were safe, but dismissal was delayed for some of our students. Please speak with your students about the serious consequences of bringing any weapon to school. It is a violation of law and the CMS Code of Student Conduct. Thank you for your support of Hopewell High School. Safety will continue to be our priority.”

Below is a list of guns found in CMS schools this year:

  • 6 guns found at West Charlotte High School
  • 2 guns found at West Mecklenburg High School
  • 2 guns found at Hopewell High School
  • 1 gun found at Mallard Creek High School
  • 1 gun found at Myers Park High School
  • 1 gun found at South Mecklenburg High School
  • 1 gun found at Julius Chambers High School
  • 1 gun found at Garinger High School

Superintendent Earnest Winston tweeted the following late Wednesday afternoon:

“I am concerned and I know I’m not alone. Guns are coming into our schools from homes and our streets. We must address this problem, but also the underlying issues that are leading to school-age adolescents getting access to guns in the first place.

“That is a conversation that involves CMS, but it must be broader than that. We cannot come at this alone. I am asking my counterparts in local municipal government and local law enforcement leadership to join me for the first of what might need to be a series of discussions.

We must get guns out of young people’s hands. When our community rises to that challenge, our schools will be able to focus on our mission of educating students.”

‘I want us to look again at metal detectors’

Mecklenburg County commissioners spoke at length about guns on campuses during their meeting Wednesday night.

Commissioner Vilma Leake said the number of guns recovered in CMS schools this year is unacceptable. She said the county has given the district millions of dollars to enhance security, and she wants to know what school leaders are going to do to keep kids safe.

“All I am saying is, I am holding the school board accountable,” Leake said. “You say I can’t tell you what to do with the money. Well, I am telling you what to do about saving my children. You have a responsibility. So, I want to see a plan for what you have in place -- not two weeks from now, not three weeks from now -- but as soon as possible.”

Leake watched the video from Hopewell High School and said she was outraged and heartbroken. She added that CMS has an obligation to protect everyone inside the building.

CMS School Board member Rhonda Cheek, of Huntersville, would like to get help from the community but said the district cannot wait on that.

The district must be proactive and “get its own house in order,” she said.

“Oh, I want us to look again at metal detectors,” Cheek told Channel 9. “I want to look again at more random searches, and I hope there are searches on school campuses tomorrow. Do we have enough school resource officers? Are local police helping us enough with that many students at a campus? At Panthers games? I have to have a clear bag at a Panthers game with my stuff in it. Do we need to mandate that high school students and middle school students have clear book bags? It was brought up before and drew controversy in the community but at what point does the community say, ‘enough is enough?’”

Cheek said when she brought up those ideas in the past, she heard that “it cost too much.” She said she’s taking action immediately.

“I’ve been on the phone with mayor-elect of Huntersville, Melinda Bales,” Cheek said. “We’re working on maybe having a town hall for the Hopewell community. [Bales] is reaching out to her town manager. I’ve been on the phone with the Learning Zone superintendent and fellow board members and those that I haven’t, their going to hear about this tonight. I think it’s time to stop saying, ‘It’s too complicated and too expensive.’ What price is a human life? To me, it’s priceless and it’s never too complicated to do everything we can to save them.”

A Town Hall is now planned for the Hopewell community. The meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at Lake Forest Church. Cheek told Channel 9 she will have more information then about steps being taken to improve safety.

Return to this developing story for updates.

(Watch the video below: Several guns found at CMS schools since start of school)