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Man with handgun at Signal Knob Middle School questioned, released

By Joe Beck

Another incident involving a man whose actions aroused suspicions rattled nerves at a Strasburg school Thursday.

Shenandoah County deputies questioned and released a 34-year-old Strasburg man who was found carrying a handgun in the parking lot of Signal Knob Middle School.

Shenandoah County Maj. Scott Proctor said deputies noticed a man in a parked vehicle on school grounds around 9 a.m. The deputies approached the vehicle and discovered the man was carrying a handgun "on his person," Proctor said.

Proctor said the man produced a valid permit for carrying a concealed weapon at the request of the deputies. Proctor said state law allows people to carry guns on school grounds "but there are limitations on it."

Proctor said the deputies spoke with the commonwealth's attorney office before releasing the man.

"He was released, and he left the school grounds," Proctor said. "He never did enter the school nor was there a handgun or any other weapon in the school."

The incident follows the arrest Wednesday of Christopher Gerrit Johnson of Strasburg for disorderly conduct at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School. Authorities say Johnson appeared inside the school with a 2-by-4 board bearing the words "high powered rifle."

Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley said state law generally bans guns on school property but firearms may be allowed under certain conditions. Exceptions are made for those who have a concealed weapons permit and remain inside a parked vehicle in a parking lot, traffic circle or other entry or exit point at a school.

"You have to meet all those criteria and based on the facts as they were presented to me as to what occurred, this individual met all those factors," Wiseley said.

Shenandoah County school superintendent B. Keith Rowland called the incident " a good example of a deputy doing her job."

Rowland said he expected to have "further conversations" about guns and other school safety issues over the next month or so.

People are "uneasy" about the recent incidents in Strasburg and Connecticut, he said.

"It is clear you cannot have a gun on public school property without a permit," Rowland said. "What we didn't know is if you have a permit, it allows you to have a gun on school property."

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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