Updated 10:05 p.m.
TONASKET – Devin Martinez, an 18-year-old Tonasket High School student, is in custody after being spotted on the Tonasket High School campus with what turned out to be a pellet gun, causing a district-wide lockdown for nearly an hour on Thursday, Oct. 24.
“Basically he was being stupid,” said Tonasket Police Chief Rob Burks. “He said he’d bought it from a friend the night before and left it hidden overnight near the school. During lunch he was trying to sneak it to a friend’s car.
“Someone saw him walking across the parking lot trying to hide it, and it has a wood stock so it looks like a real rifle.
“He also had a knife on him, so between that and the pellet gun we booked him for possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds.”
“There was a perceived threat in the community of a male walking toward our campus with a rifle at approximately 12:00 p.m …” said Superintendent Paul Turner in a statement. “The district immediately put schools into lockdown. Students, staff and local law enforcement executed our district safety drill swiftly to ensure the safety of our children. The person of interest was apprehended by our local law enforcement. Upon notification from authorities, school resumed as normal.”
Burks said the original call to dispatch indicated the suspect was armed with a handgun. He said he called Okanogan County Sheriff for all available units, put local EMS on stand-by and alerted the Tonasket Fire Department for traffic control.
Burks said when he arrived at the school, “The kid had run off. We had one deputy on the scene already so I headed down the hill (toward town) to see if I could find anyone running, but didn’t. When I got back the principal and vice principal were walking with the kid, but he didn’t have a gun. So I asked him where the gun was; he took me to it and it turned out to be a pellet rifle.”
Burks said Martinez claimed to not understand what the fuss was over a pellet rifle.
“We have kids in class thinking there might be a shooting, parents hearing about it and wondering what’s going on,” Burks said. “He wasted the time of fire, police and EMT. If I’d have pulled up on him while he was putting the gun in the car I very well could have pulled my gun on him.
“With all the incidents we hear about these days, you don’t mess with something like that where someone could get shot.”