The day after the carnage at Virginia Tech University, Philadelphia police and school district police arrested two teens Tuesday afternoon with a loaded .45-caliber gun a block and a half from Lincoln High School in the Northeast.
School district police called city police after receiving a tip that some students planned to show up with a weapon after dismissal in response to a verbal dispute that morning at Lincoln, district officials said.
Two plainclothes officers from the Philadelphia Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Unit arrested, without incident, a 15-year-old female student and a 17-year-old male about 2:20 p.m. in the 3300 block of Guilford Street. They were taken to the 15th Police District and each was charged with illegal possession of a weapon.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said yesterday that the 15-year-old was a Lincoln freshman who was out of school because she had been suspended as a result of an earlier incident at the school. He said the 17-year-old had formally dropped out of the Pennypacker School in January. Under the district's discipline policy, the freshman faces expulsion.
Anthony Canamucio, who commands the east division of the school police, said the morning's argument among students at Lincoln was not unusual. He said there had been tensions in the school all year between students from the Liddonfield housing development and students from other neighborhoods.
"It was more of a verbal confrontation," Canamucio said. "Rumors started to fly once that was resolved that . . . some people may be back in the afternoon with a weapon."
Despite the ongoing rivalry, district officials said Tuesday was the first time a gun was confiscated.
Earl Schoen, a school police officer who serves as the liaison with the city police Criminal Intelligence Unit, said extra police already were in the area when police radio relayed a report of two people with a gun.
Schoen said the plainclothes officers spotted the two teens and saw the 17-year-old pass the weapon to the female student.
James B. Golden, the district's chief safety executive, said that thanks to tips from students and teamwork between school and city police officers, violence was averted.
He said that after the Virginia Tech shootings, school district police had been reminded to be vigilant.
"There are extreme acts of violence that occur, such as at Virginia Tech and the Amish school in Lancaster. They are rare, but there are no guarantees," Golden said.
"We believe that the best way to reduce the threat of violence and mitigate risk is to follow procedures. This is an example of what can happen when you do it diligently."