UPDATE 1/24/13 @ 6 p.m.
BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After the arrest of a man Wednesday morning at a Boone County elementary school, parents are questioning why the school didn’t notify them -- and why the man was on school grounds at all.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department arrested Herman Dewayne Pickens, the father of a Sherman Elementary student, at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the school.
Pickens had been on school premises twice prior to the arrest. The first incident took place on Jan. 8, when Pickens showed up at the school and showed staff his empty gun holster. Police and school officials say he made threats involving a gun, saying he would bring the weapon inside the next time he came to the school.
He came to the school two times after that event -- once to pick up his sick child, and again Wednesday, when the school principal invited him to come for a parent-teacher meeting. She wanted to discuss the threats that had been made and had requested a police officer to attend the meeting. Pickens was wearing his empty gun holster again and said he had a gun in his car. The police officer searched Pickens, finding a pocket knife on him and a gun in his car, and then proceeded to arrest him.
Through all of this, Boone County Schools and Sherman Elementary did not notify parents of a threat on school premises or inform them after the fact.
“There was no way to provide a direct communication with all of the parents that would completely outline what had taken place there at school,” Jeff Huffman, assistant superintendent of Boone County Schools, said.
He said the school believed it would incite more concern if the school had called all the parents and told them about an incident that wasn’t deemed a risk.
But parents reacted differently, with a heightened sense of concern surrounding gun and bomb threats after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary last month. One father at the school Thursday said he had no idea anything at all had happened at the school the day before.
April Williams is the mother of a fourth-grader and a kindergartener. She said she found out about the arrest first from customers at the grocery store where she works.
“They had just come in and said, ‘Well, did you hear about the guy who walked in the school, threatening with a gun?’” Williams said.
She said while she could somewhat understand the school not notifying parents, she couldn’t understand why the school allowed the meeting with Pickens to take place on school grounds.
“That’s my children down there,” Williams said. “If he'd already posed threats, why did they have the teacher conference at the school, where the kids were present? Why wasn't it [taken] to the board meeting, or the board's office over in Madison?"
Huffman and the school principal said the location of meetings like these is at the discretion of the principal, who felt comfortable with the meeting taking place on school grounds. Neither considered Pickens a threat, especially with police present. Both said they did not believe students or staff were at risk at any point.
The Boone County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that 53-year-old Herman Dewayne Pickens went to Sherman Elementary School in Comfort and showed an empty gun holster on his belt to school staff. Officials said Pickens had visited the school several times this month and made threats of not leaving his gun in his vehicle the next time he came in to the school.
Media outlets report that authorities found a loaded handgun in his car parked near the school. His connection to the school is unclear.
Pickens was being held on $100,000 bond.
A woman hung up after answering a telephone number listed for Pickens.
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