Mandarin High student bonds out after gun arrest

Jose Soto, 18, faces felony charge of possession of firearm on school grounds

By Heather Leigh - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An 18-year-old arrested after police say a gun was found in his car on the campus of Mandarin High School appeared before a judge Wednesday morning in Duval County.

The judge set bond for Jose Soto at $10,003. He later bonded out of  Duval County Jail at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

His next hearing will be Sept. 7.

Soto, a student, was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Duval County Jail on a felony charge of possession of a firearm on school grounds. 

According to his arrest report, Soto told an administrator and a school resource officer that he was having problems with two students at the school.

"It's hard to tell because that part isn't in the report. It's hard to tell if he was having a hard time with them. Maybe he was and maybe they admitted to bothering him. He might have told the other students, 'I'm tired of this. I have a gun in the car. Maybe that was relayed to the school personnel. It's hard to tell at this point," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. 

The student later told the dean and the officer that he had a firearm on school grounds, Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman Laureen Ricks said in a statement. 

"I'm sure something was said because he went to police, and the school personnel first, saying he was having a problem. (He) didn't mention the gun. Then when they brought the other two students in, and released them, then they asked to search the car. So something was said in that interview that led school personnel and that resource officer to believe that there may be a weapon inside Soto's car," Smith said. 

School officials said the student was arrested after a gun was discovered in a vehicle parked on campus on the second day of the school year. The gun, a .45-caliber Ruger, was not reported stolen, according to the arrest report.

.45-caliber Ruger

A gun expert from Green Acres Sporting Goods told News4Jax that the semi-automatic pistol found in the car is typically used for target practice, but could also be for defense.

"It’s a little bit big to be carried as a concealed weapon, but it’s something you can conceal," Ziadeh Farhat said. "The gun can typically hold eight rounds, though there are magazines that can hold up to 15, but 15 would be the max."

Farhat said he's relieved to hear the gun was found.

"It's actually a good thing that happened. A lot of times that doesn't happen. It seems like he did the right thing. I guess his conscious got to him and he decided to fess up. Nobody got hurt, so that's the main thing," Farhat said.

Smith said the student did the right thing by telling administrators, but the act is a felony. 

"Unfortunately, that's bringing a weapon to school grounds. The parking lot is still school grounds, so the police were correct in making their arrest. That's what they had to do," Smith said. 

Though the gun was not used, Smith said the incident could have been much worse, especially if the gun had gotten into the wrong hands.

"This could have been a very dangerous situation because cars are broken into in school parking lots. And someone could have broken into the car, and taken out the gun. And it could have been a violent situation at the school," Smith said. 

Soto will also face discipline under the Student Code of Conduct.

"It is a new school year, and we are encouraging parents and guardians to please discuss this incident with their children as well as monitor the items he or she may bring to school," Ricks said in the statement.

Soto's parents were in court Wednesday, but declined to comment.

According to News4Jax records, there were 10 incidents of guns on school grounds and eight arrests in the 2015-16 school year.

During the 2014-15 school year, there were 14 such incidents with 18 arrests. 

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