Gun found at Herberg Middle School was 'fully loaded,' Berkshire DA stresses

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PITTSFIELD — The handgun that was found in a locker at Herberg Middle School on Friday was "fully loaded," according to Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless.

That account runs counter to a news release sent out by the office of Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi on Friday, which stated "The weapon was not loaded but did have a clip with bullets beside it."

In a conversation with The Eagle on Monday, Capeless said the mayor's office news release was not the case.

"The information we had from the Pittsfield Police Department was that the gun was fully loaded," he said. "I am dismayed that the mayor's office would release incorrect information to the public."

The Herberg staff initiated the school's "shelter in place" protocol Friday morning after a student notified a teacher of the weapon's presence. The protocol calls for students to be held in "safe zones," which are smaller-sized classrooms, with the blinds drawn.

School administrators and School Resource Officer David Orsi located the weapon and immediately turned it over to the Pittsfield Police Department, according to the mayor's office news release.

The student, a juvenile whose name has not been released, was taken into custody.

The student is facing charges of carrying a firearm without a license and carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds, both felonies, and carrying a loaded firearm, a misdemeanor that calls for an additional sentence, Capeless said.

Contacted Monday about the DA's comments, school Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless — one of three officials quoted in the release on Friday — responded by email that it was his understanding that the gun was not found to be loaded.

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McCandless later issued a second version of the original press release with a correction included, stating "The weapon had a loaded magazine in it, but no round in the chamber."

The incorrect statement was in the first paragraph of Friday's press release and not within any of the quotes attributed to Bianchi, McCandless and Police Chief Michael Wynn. City Director of Public Services Julia Sabourin, who sent the original release out to the media on Friday, said she distributed the statement, but did not write it.

It is not clear who wrote the original news release.

Reached on Monday afternoon, Bianchi said that when he, school and law enforcement officials gathered at Herberg after the incident and were discussing it, he believes that McCandless said he'd heard from someone involved in confiscating the weapon that it was not loaded but had a loaded clip beside it.

"My quote was the extent of my involvement [in the release]," the mayor said.

He added that, in reality, he doesn't see much of a difference between a loaded handgun and one with a clip that could be quickly loaded.

Wynn, contacted by email Monday, said Sabourin would address questions about the initial press release.

Sabourin said that, while the police department did have an opportunity to review the Friday release, the chief apparently was not present at that time.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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