Gun found again at South Philly High, but brave school cop 'prevented a tragedy'


Days after a woman was stopped from entering South Philadelphia High when a gun was discovered in a diaper bag she was carrying, another loaded gun was recovered just outside the school, authorities said Wednesday.

“We probably prevented a tragedy, a homicide or a shooting,” said Chief Inspector Cynthia Dorsey, head of the Philadelphia School District’s police force.

The gun was found last Friday when a school police officer observed a young man outside the school at Broad and Snyder at about 3 p.m., near school dismissal time.

School Police Sgt. Tyisha Wright-Godwin approached the man — who authorities believe was not a South Philadelphia student — and he told her he was waiting for a friend. Something felt wrong to Wright-Godwin, and she directed one of the school’s cameras kept on the young man.

Then, “it got really scary,” Principal Otis Hackney said.

Almost immediately, a bulletin came across the officers’ radios: the young man had threatened a South Philadelphia student. Then, the officer monitoring the cameras radioed that he saw the young man pass what appeared to be a gun to a female student, who put it in her bag.

School police officers are not armed, but Sgt. Wright-Godwin was single-minded, Dorsey said. She moved in.

“She knew she had to get that gun,” said Dorsey.

A struggle ensued — Wright-Godwin trying to grab the bag, the unknown young man trying to grab it back.

Ultimately, the young man fled and two other school officers joined Wright-Godwin, taking the young woman into custody.

Everything was over in minutes.

“Other students didn’t gather around. They had no idea what was going on. The officers just swooped right in, and took care of it,” Hackney said.

“It was a great job,” Dorsey said. “When the sergeant talked to me, she was still out of breath.”

Wright-Godwin is a South Philadelphia High graduate, and invested in the community. She took it personally that someone would bring a gun to “her” school, the principal said.

“She cares about South Philly, even the knuckleheads,” Hackney said. “She wants them all to do well, and she makes sure that everyone’s on point.”

The .38-caliber Smith and Wesson was loaded with five rounds of ammunition, and its serial number had been altered, Dorsey said.

The 16-year-old girl, whose name is not being released because of her age, had a prior record and was charged with possession of a firearm and resisting arrest, Dorsey said.

The young man is still at large, Dorsey said, but he had passed off his identification to the student, so authorities know who he is.

Capt. Laurence Nodiff, commander of the city police’s south detectives division, praised the school officers’ actions.

“They did a really nice job,” Nodiff said.

Hackney, Wright-Godwin and the rest of the school security team believe their first job is to develop strong, positive relationships with students, the principal said. But the school is a huge building in a tough urban neighborhood, and when the situation arises, officers “do what they need to do,” Hackney said.

On Jan. 10, officers stopped a 21-year-old woman attempting to enter the school to register for evening school from entering the building. Kelly Jones had a loaded gun in her pink and white diaper bag.

Jones was passing through the security system at the school’s entrance when officers discovered that gun.

“I can’t change the community we’re located in, but we can all do our best to keep kids safe,” Hackney said. “I have the best school police team in the city.”