Putnam County sheriff: 2 guns found in middle school student’s backpack

3 knives also discovered

PALATKA, Fla. – Two guns were discovered Tuesday in the backpack of a student at Jenkins Middle School in Palatka, Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said.

DeLoach said the student, 13-year-old Joseph Allen Jr., is facing two felony counts of possession of a firearm on a school campus and one felony count of possession of a weapon on school property.

DeLoach said at a 3 p.m. news conference that an anonymous tip came in about noon regarding the student having weapons on campus. DeLoach said the school resource deputy secured the student and found two 9 mm handguns, one of which was loaded, in the student’s backpack. The sheriff said three knives were also found in the backpack and on the student.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office responded Tuesday to Jenkins Middle School.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office responded Tuesday to Jenkins Middle School. (Putnam County Sheriff's Office)

“I am eternally grateful to Deputy Williams and the school that took immediate and decisive action to isolate this student and get these weapons off of him,” DeLoach said. “Otherwise, today, my worst fears might have been imagined.”

Dr. Rick Surrency, superintendent of the Putnam County School District, said all students, faculty and staff were safe, but the school was placed on a modified lockdown. Parents were notified through social media and an automated message, and students were released at the normal dismissal time. After-school activities were not affected.

DeLoach said it’s unclear what the student’s intent was by bringing the weapons, and he was being interviewed. The sheriff said the teen may have gotten the weapons from his parents.

Both DeLoach and Surrency urged parents to use the incident as an opportunity to speak with their children about the importance of reporting knowledge or suspicion regarding unsafe items or behavior.

“We can’t continue to accept this as the norm,” DeLoach said.

This was the second time this year when a loaded gun was brought on a school campus in Putnam County. On Jan. 14, according to the Sheriff’s Office, a 12-year-old student was arrested after bringing a loaded gun on the campus of C.H. Price Middle School.

DeLoach and Surrency originally called for the news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss an unrelated fight between two Interlachen High School students that was captured on video.

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