18-year-old convicted of bringing firearm on grounds will serve 12-month sentence
By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- An 18-year-old man convicted of bringing a firearm to school was led away from a courtroom Thursday to start serving a 12-month sentence in the Warren County Jail.
Judge Ronald Napier of Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court imposed the sentence on Adrian Edwards, 18, of Front Royal during a sentencing hearing that lasted about half an hour.
Supporters of Edwards streamed out of the courtroom in tears following the sentencing.
The sentencing closed a case that triggered protests from parents concerned about school safety and led to the removal of the Diversified Minds Alternative Education Program from the site it shared with Ressie Jeffries Elementary School.
Edwards was enrolled in Diversified Minds at 320 Criser Road when he was arrested on school grounds Feb. 9. Sheriff's Office investigators found Edwards, who was 17 at the time, with a .25 caliber handgun after school officials had called them in to help search for a gun among nine student suspects.
The gun held a magazine, but all of the chambers were empty, law enforcement officials said.
The arrest led some parents of pupils at Ressie Jeffries to begin circulating a petition calling for the removal of the Diversified Minds program from its site next to Ressie Jeffries. School system officials agreed, and the program was moved to the Environmental Study Area off John Marshall Highway earlier this month.
Napier's sentencing followed Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicholas Manthos recommendation of a one-year jail sentence for Edwards.
"This was a serious offense that deserved to be taken seriously, and the judge agreed 100 percent," Manthos said.
He said that Edwards was also on probation for destruction of property at the time of the gun offense.
Manthos shed some light on how authorities were alerted to the possibility of a gun on school grounds.
He said the chain of events began with a phone call to school and Sheriff's Office officials from someone whose gun had been stolen recently. The victim identified Edwards as the person with the missing gun, which led school officials to first search for the firearm in school on Feb. 8.
No gun was found during the search, Manthos said, but sheriff's deputies were asked to return the following day to stand by during a search of the students.
Manthos said the gun found on Edwards turned out not to be the gun stolen from the victim whose complaint triggered the investigation.
Manthos said another has been charged in that crime.
Manthos said Edwards insisted that he wasn't aware that he was carrying a gun because he was wearing a puffy jacket at the time of the arrest.
The circumstances under which Edwards acquired the gun remain unknown, Manthos said.
Edwards was represented by attorney Howard Manheimer of Winchester. He did not return phone calls asking for comment.