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Teacher Takes Pistol From Student After Shot Is Fired

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Whittier teacher wrestled a loaded gun from a 12-year-old student Thursday after the student fired the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol in class and ordered the teacher to put his hands up. No one was hurt in the incident.

Leonard Shea, 59, a seventh-grade math teacher at South Whittier Intermediate, said he grabbed for the gun because he was afraid it would discharge again and hurt a student.

The incident began just after 10 a.m. when a gunshot shattered a window in Shea’s class, and the teacher ordered students to hide under their desks. Shea then called the principal’s office for assistance.

Shea said he then noticed a bullet hole in the jacket of a student. Apparently, the gun had discharged while the student was playing with it inside his jacket, Shea said.

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“I don’t think he meant to shoot it at all,” Shea said. “The bullet had to miss a couple of people by less than a few inches.”

At first the student refused to open his jacket at Shea’s command. When he did, he produced the gun, pointed it at Shea, and said, “Put up your hands.”

“I couldn’t tell you if he was serious,” said Shea, who was standing just a few feet away. Instinctively, Shea grabbed for the gun and ordered the class out of the room.

By the time Shea won the struggle, school officials had arrived to escort the student to the sheriff’s station.

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“I don’t believe it was in malice or anything,” Shea said of the student’s actions. “I’m sure he feels terrible now.”

The student’s name has not been released because of his age. He was booked at the Norwalk sheriff’s station for assault with a deadly weapon, bringing a firearm onto a school campus and shooting a firearm in a negligent manner. He was then transferred to Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles.

Shea said this is his 33rd and final year of teaching. “If there were any questions about my retiring, they were settled today,” he said.


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