Montgomery County Police have arrested and charged a Germantown student with bringing a loaded handgun to Clarksburg High School. The incident has shocked the community just one day after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died.
Detectives from the MCPD’s Firearms Investigations Unit have charged 18-year-old Alwin Chen of the 11700 block of Gunners Drive in Germantown with offenses related to the possession of a handgun at Clarksburg High School.
According to police, just prior to 2:00 pm on Thursday, Feb. 15, the School Resource Officer assigned to and working at Clarksburg High School, received information that Chen might have brought a gun to school.
The incident happened the day of a long-planned Board of Education Town Hall meeting with the Clarksburg High School PTA Cluster.
At the BOE/Cluster meeting, many parents were concerned about the incident, and it was addressed by members of the Montgomery County Public School’s security team as well as MCPD 5th District Commander Capt. Mark Plazinski.
“Once the school administration had gotten the information about this young man having a weapon. The SRO officer and the security team came up with a plan,” Plazinski told the crowd of concerned parents and students. “They contacted the student, and they confirmed that he did have a loaded firearm and he was placed under arrest and taken to the 5th District Station.”
According to police, school security, accompanied by School Resource Officer Troy Melott, went to Chen’s classroom. A school security employee entered the classroom and informed Chen that he needed to speak to Chen. The SRO and the employee walked Chen to a school office.
Once inside the school office, the Officer Melott asked Chen if he had a weapon on his person, to which Chen replied that he had a handgun in his book bag and a knife in his front, shirt pocket. At approximately 2:20 pm, the SRO recovered a loaded, 9mm handgun from Chen’s book bag and placed Chen under arrest. The SRO also retrieved the knife from Chen’s pocket.
“Today’s incident went the way we would want an incident to go down — knowing that nobody ever wants an incident like this to go down,” Plazinski told the Germantown Pulse. “It went off as well as can be expected. Officer Melott did everything that could be expected of an officer. He handled it in a manner which it didn’t even cause disruption to the school day and for that he should be greatly applauded. I am so grateful to have men and women working in our schools as police officers who are willing to do the job and put themselves in harm’s way to ensure that our students are safe.”
A parent asked why the school did not go into lockdown as a result of the incident.
“The reason we did not have a lockdown,” said Mike Harting, Acting Security Supervisor with MCPS, “is we only have a lockdown when there is a known threat to the building, and there is imminent danger. As soon as we found out about the gun and we were able to locate the student, and we were immediately able to mitigate the danger by separating the student from the backpack. The student started to walk out of the room, and a security team member picked up the backpack and took it to a different room.”
Plazinski said, “There is no indication that there was anybody else involved or that there was a plan for any other students to bring weapons to school today.”
Chen was transported to the Central Processing Unit and charged with possession of a handgun, possession of a firearm by a person under 21 years old, and possession of a firearm on school property.
Plazinski said that this investigation is ongoing. He also said that police patrols were beefed up around Clarksburg High School directly after the incident was reported. “As soon as I found out about the incident, I sent a number of additional officers to the Clarksburg High School area to patrol around the school and keep an eye on things. We did have an extra presence at the school today.”
A parent at the Town Hall meeting asked how a student was able to get a gun into the school. MCPS Cluster Security Coordinator Alyson Baber replied that it was very tough to know what students are bringing to school. “We don’t have metal detectors. It is difficult to know if students have weapons,” she said. “They wear layers, and they have book bags. The only way to know is if somebody sees something and says something. It is all about our staff building relationships with students. The security team and administration here has a phenomenal relationship with the students.”
She said, “The security team here is phenomenal. No students or other staff members knew what was going on. Everything happened quickly and quietly.”
Detectives continue to work to gather information and collect evidence to include conducting a search of Chen’s residence and researching and confirming the ownership and purchasing history of the handgun. Chen’s motive for bringing a gun to school also remains under investigation, according to police.
MCPD officials said that as additional information is confirmed, it will be released to the public. Anyone who has information about this incident is asked to call the Firearms Investigations Unit at 240.773.6400.
Top: Germantown resident 18-year-old Alwin Chen was arrested and charged with bringing a loaded gun to Clarksburg High School on Thursday, Feb. 15. Photo courtesy MCPD.
Next: 5th District Commander Capt. Mark Plazinski addresses concerned parents at a Board of Education Town Hall Meeting at Clarksburg High School on Thursday night.
Next: Mike Harting, Acting Security Supervisor with MCPS explains to parents why a lockdown was not necessary during Thursday’s incident.
Next: MCPS Cluster Security Coordinator Alyson Baber, Mike Harting, and Capt. Plazinski spoke to the concerned parents and community members at Clarksburg High School Thursday night.
Next: The 9mm handgun recovered from Chen’s backpack. (photo edited by MCP to conceal serial number). Photo courtesy MCPD.
Photos by Germantown Pulse. Unless otherwise noted.