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Middle school students on a suburban Minneapolis school bus were surprised by their driver this week when he suddenly stopped the bus at a street corner and told a seventh grader to retrieve a gun that was lying in the middle of the street.
The seventh grader from Robbinsdale Middle School complied with the request, picking up what turned out to be a loaded .40 caliber Ruger semi-automatic handgun, and handed it off to the driver.
Parents received a letter from the school principal later that day informing them of the incident.
The letter said in part: “The bus driver on Route #433 noticed something on the side of the road and instructed a seventh grade student to depart the bus and see what it was. The item found was a weapon, and the bus driver instructed the student to pick the weapon up and bring it to him. The student did what he was told to do by the bus driver, and the bus continued on to RMS.”
The principal commended the student for obeying the driver, but highlighted that “this was not a safe situation.”
The letter then urged parents to talk to their kids about danger, telling them to report “unsafe situations” to an adult.
“I encourage you to talk with your child/children about situations in which they may find themselves that would be considered unsafe, how to become an advocate in such situations, and to report any unsafe situation to an adult at school or at home,” the letter finished.
WND spoke with the school district, the police and the bus company in an attempt to get an accurate picture of the incident.
After retrieving the gun, the driver apparently dropped the students off at Robbinsdale Middle School and then continued with a new route, picking up at least four additional students.
It seems as though the students who saw the gun couldn’t wait to talk about their bus ride when they arrived at school, and word of the gun on the bus got out quickly.
According to Robbinsdale School District spokeswoman Tia Clasen, it is not entirely clear how the incident was first reported to school officials. She surmised that students who witnessed the incident began talking to friends and teachers once they reached the school.
“Someone from the school must have called the bus company, Metropolitan Transportation Network, because I believe they were the ones to call police,” Clasen told WND.
Clasen thought someone from the school wanted to make sure that the driver had reported being in possession of the gun to the bus company. The school found out the bus company had not been made aware of it from their driver, despite being in radio contact.
Tashita Tufaa, owner of MTN, agreed and said his company received a call from the school informing it that the driver was in possession of the gun and called the driver on the radio immediately.
“I informed the driver to pull over to the side of the road and wait for police to arrive,” Taffa told WND.
Metropolitan Transportation Network, whose motto is “to provide safe, friendly, and efficient transportation,” then called 911, and multiple police agencies responded to the scene.
“We also sent another bus to the scene to take over the route for that driver while he was questioned by police,” Taffa says
Taffa told WND he fired the driver immediately and said that no driver should ever tell a student to get off the bus to retrieve anything out of the street, let alone a loaded handgun.
WND spoke with Jeff Priess from the Robbinsdale School District Transportation office who said that he met with the owner of the bus company after the incident.
When asked if the relationship with the company would continue, he told WND, “We have concerns.”
The school district letter tells parents that the driver intended to turn the gun over to the bus company, but Clasen says, “That obviously didn’t happen, since the driver picked up more students.”
The Minnetonka Police Department ultimately made contact with the driver and retrieved the loaded weapon, ultimately releasing him after questioning.
Minnesota State law says it’s a felony to possess a weapon on school property, including a school bus, if there is one or more student on board.
WND has asked the police agencies involved if charges will be considered against the driver, especially since there seems to have been opportunities for him to properly turn over the weapon to authorities.
There was no word from the police departments regarding possible charges.
It’s also a gross misdemeanor to possess a handgun in a motor vehicle without properly storing it.
The name of the driver has not been released.