Update: Loaded gun accidentally brought to Lyles-Crouch by student

Update: Loaded gun accidentally brought to Lyles-Crouch by student
The Uvalde Foundation For Kids, a nonprofit, offered to provide clear backpacks to Lyles-Crouch following the incident. (Photo/Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy via Facebook)

By Ryan Hopper

An elementary school student accidentally brought a relative’s loaded Ruger 9 mm handgun to Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy on Friday, according to a Monday press release by the Alexandria Police Department and police scanner traffic from openmhz.com. 

The release indicated this is an ongoing police investigation in consultation with Alexandria City Public Schools and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and that the responsible adult involved could still be charged. It read in part: 

“These are facts related to the investigation: 

  • The gun was brought to school accidentally, the child grabbed the wrong backpack that happened to contain a family member’s legally owned handgun.
  • The child later in the morning, while in class, observed the gun inside the backpack and approached the teacher about it.
  • The teacher took immediate possession of the bag and notified administrators.
  • The child did the right thing, not touching the gun and approaching a responsible adult about it.
  • To our knowledge no other student observed the weapon nor was it removed from the bag at any time.
  • Claims that the child had threatened other students have been investigated and not corroborated.” 

The public was first made aware of this incident through a Friday afternoon press release in which APD stated that: 

“Everyone remained safe and secure. The child’s parents were notified and were cooperative with police. At no time was there a threat.” 

Here is the timeline of events according to publicly available police scanner traffic from openmhz.com. 

11:44:38 a.m.: Police indicate a call had just come in from a Lyles-Crouch administrator that a weapon was found inside of a student’s backpack. 

12:03:20 p.m.: Units on the scene identify the weapon as a Ruger 9 mm handgun and report its serial number to APD headquarters. 

12:03:38 p.m.: Police search the handgun’s serial number and determine the handgun was not stolen. 

The incident has shocked many in the Lyles-Crouch community, including Flavia Rusznak, a mother of two children who attend the school. 

“Lyles-Crouch is a warm and loving community,” Rusznak said. “We’re a tight-knit community, a neighborhood school; and it is scary and disheartening to know a member of our community brought in a loaded gun to our school.” 

Rusznak said that the school’s PTA held meetings through the weekend and hosted a teacher/staff breakfast on Monday at the school to recognize the teachers and staff for all they do. 

“I am in awe of our amazing teachers and staff who kept us all safe,” Rusznak said. “Particularly the homeroom teacher hero who handled the backpack that contained the loaded handgun with such bravery [and] kept the students safe and, incredibly, even shielded them from knowing the intensity of what was taking place at that moment.” 

This incident has also renewed debate on gun storage legislation locally and in Richmond, with the shooting of Abby Zwerner, a Newport News teacher who was shot by one of her 6-year-old first graders on Jan. 6, 2023, in recent memory. Senate Bill 368, which requires the storage of a firearm and its ammunition to be “in a locked container, compartment or cabinet that is inaccessible to such minor,” passed both the Virginia Senate and General Assembly in late February and is on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk. 

“I cannot possibly imagine a more damning indictment of our policy failure on guns than a weapon in the hands of an elementary student,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We must do better.” 

On Tuesday, The Uvalde Foundation For Kids, a nonprofit formed following the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, announced that it has offered to help provide clear backpacks to Lyles-Crouch. 

“The foundation is now extending an immediate offer to the school to help provide clear backpacks as an additional, less financially draining and more immediate tool to prevent weapons from being brought on campus,” the foundation said in an email to the Times. 

As S.B. 368 lies on Youngkin’s desk, parents like Rusznak hope that this near tragedy will lead to legislative reform. 

“I hope this will move our community to action by demanding more accountability and safety guards in place from our lawmakers,” Rusznak said. “There is a School Board meeting [March 7] and I hope members of our community will be present to advocate for change to keep our students, our community, all of us safe.”