Mom says daughter who brought gun to elementary school had been having mental health issues
RICHTON PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- A 10-year-old fourth grade girl took a gun to school in south suburban Richton Park on Wednesday, the school district and police said.
The girl's mother is also now in trouble – but also talked with CBS 2's Jermont Terry. She wants everyone to know her daughter suffers from mental health issues.
The beginning of the school day Wednesday at Neil A. Armstrong Elementary School, at 5030 Imperial Dr. in Richton Park, started with a panic when the fourth grader was spotted in the class with a gun.
"She started to pull her gun, out and everybody started screaming and getting out the class," said Jakaiyh Brunt, a pupil who was in the classroom at the time.
With her mother's permission, Jakaiyh explained how everyone rushed to a safe place.
"They locked the door, and then we started to pray," Jakaiyh said.
But the gun was loaded – and the 10-year-old got the weapon from home, where her mother, Chanel, works as a Cook County correctional officer.
"She's been suffering from some type of mental illness - and every facility that we call to try to get her some help, it's a waiting list," Chanel said of her daughter.
Chanel said about a month ago, her daughter began having auditory hallucinations - hearing voices. Her mother said the voices had specific and chilling instructions for the child on Wednesday.
"And she said it whispered in her ear, 'Shoot up the school,'" Chanel said.
Before school, Chanel says her daughter made her way into her bedroom – following the voices.
"They told her to get the gun, and that's when she went and found my gun," said Chanel.
Chanel said the gun was in a locked box.
"It has the clips here that is missing, and I think it comes from her like pulling it loose," Chanel said.
The mother believes her 10-year-old daughter kept prying until the gun, and clip, fell out.
"The voices told her to get it out," Chanel said.
A teacher cleared the room, and then confronted Chanel's daughter in the hallway.
Richton Park police said when the teacher stopped the child, she had no idea the gun the fourth grader had was loaded.
But after a brief tussle in front of other students, the teacher managed to get control of the girl and safely get the gun out of her hands.
The district said staff go through safety training – but this teacher went beyond what was required.
"This teacher does what the public expects us to. This lady put her life on the line to save children, by engaging this student right away," said Richton Park police Chief Demitrous Cook. "Without thinking about her own safety, she engaged this student, she cuffed the gun, and she asked for help – and another teacher, without regard for his safety, came up and took the weapon, and was able to go into the school principal's office and lock it in a safe."
Elementary School District 159 Supt. Dr. Tiffany Brunson wrote that the school was placed on lockdown, and Richton Park police were notified.
During the lockdown, police checked and cleared school grounds, classrooms, restrooms, and hallways, Brunson wrote. All doors were locked, an account was taken of all students, and no one was allowed into or out of the building.
Brunson also praised the actions of the teacher who took the gun.
"That is not part of the training," she said. "That is part of being a hero."
The 10-year-old was taken into custody and to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, and the lockdown was later lifted. She now faces expulsion.
Chanel insisted she tried to get services for her child. Terry asked Chanel if she should have taken all the weapons out of the house – given the knowledge that her daughter has mental health issues.
"I don't think we thought it was this bad," Chanel said.
But Chanel now finds herself facing charges of endangering the health and safety of a minor – a misdemeanor.
In a statement about the corrections officer, the Cook County Sheriff's office said: "The employee has been de-deputized pending the outcome of an internal investigation. We would refer all questions about the incident to the Richton Park Police Department."
Terry asked Chanel how she would move forward - between the charges, her job, and worrying about her daughter.
"I don't know how I'm moving," Chanel said. "I'm just moving."
Brunson wrote that the situation may have frightened children, and advised parents to discuss the incident with their children - and to talk with the school district if further emotional support is needed.
for more features.