Student charged after school lockdown

Man allegedly carried a pellet gun across campus

— TONASKET – An 18-year-old man has been charged in Okanogan County District Court with possessing a dangerous weapon on school grounds.

Devin Martinez, 18, was arrested Oct. 24 and booked into the county jail. He was released on his own recognizance Oct. 25.

He was arrested outside Tonasket High School around noon after allegedly carrying a pellet gun across campus. He is a student at the school, Superintendent Paul Turner said.

Tonasket Police Department Chief Rob Burks, in a report that accompanied the charging document, wrote that his office was notified at 11:46 a.m. about a lockdown at the school district because of a report that an “unknown male” walking toward the high school with a gun.

The high, middle and elementary schools are on a single campus; all three were locked down. No one was injured.

Burks said he asked all available law enforcement to respond, and also requested Tonasket Ambulance be on standby and the fire department help with traffic control. The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Border Patrol also responded.

Burks said he contacted Principal Jeff Hardesty and Assistant Principal Kevin Terris, who identified the suspect. Meanwhile, sheriff’s deputy Terry Shrable searched for the man.

Burks said in his report that he drove toward town in an attempt to locate Martinez, then returned to the school to find Martinez with Hardesty, Terris and Martinez’ mother, Tammy Cohen.

Martinez, who is listed as having a Nespelem address, allegedly said he had purchased the pellet rifle the night before and hidden it on the school grounds, and was trying to take it to a vehicle so he could take it home, Burks’ report said. The suspect allegedly covered it with a sweatshirt and was crossing campus with it when someone saw him and alerted the school.

He allegedly told the chief he wasn’t going to shoot or hurt anyone, but wanted the gun to a sweatshirt and was crossing campus with it when someone saw him and alerted the school.

He allegedly told the chief he wasn’t going to shoot or hurt anyone, but wanted the gun to shoot at coyotes.

Burks also confiscated a spring-action knife from Martinez, his report said.

“I advised Martinez he was going to be charged with possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds for having the knife and the pellet rifle on school grounds,” Burks’ report said.

The gun was retrieved from a vehicle belonging to Vanessa Velasco, 16.

Turner said parents were notified that day via the school district’s electronic message system and also received printed copies of the notification. In the notification to parents and guardians of all students in the district, Turner wrote that schools were locked down because of a “perceived threat” in the community.

“Students, staff and local law enforcement executed our district safety drill swiftly to ensure the safety of our children,” he wrote.

Once law enforcement gave the go-ahead, the lockdown was lifted, Turner said.

A second notification was sent home the next day.

“After debriefing the incident, we are satisfied in knowing that the instantaneous actions of staff, students and the local law enforcement helped to ensure that all were safe,” Turner wrote. “Within minutes, the district lockdown was in place and the buildings were secure.”

High School Principal Jeff Hardesty said the lockdown went “pretty stellar.” Students took the situation seriously and trusted the staff.

Even though it was lunchtime at the open-campus high school, all students were shepherded into the building safely. One small group was behind the building and was contacted about the time the suspect was apprehended, Hardesty said.

Administrators are working to refine the district’s safety measures and are discussing additional procedures to put in place, Turner said.

The lockdown was the second in less than four years at Tonasket schools.

The campus was locked down May 3, 2010, when an unidentified parent allegedly made inappropriate comments to a third party about unsafe things he could do on campus.

Thursday’s lockdown was the second in as many months in Okanogan County. Okanogan schools were partially locked down Sept. 17 while deputies arrested a woman on suspicion of stealing a pistol from a vehicle in town. The woman was arrested about a block from the school.

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