Two men who were arrested after they brought an airsoft gun to an elementary school, causing the building to go on lockdown, said the incident was a misunderstanding.
Allen Sanders and Donald Hanke are both charged with illegal conveyance of a weapon into a school zone and inducing panic, which are first-degree misdemeanors. The men pleaded not guilty to the charges in Clark County Municipal Court on Friday.
The two were arrested Thursday at Kenwood Elementary School after a custodian noticed them on school grounds. One of the men was seen carrying what appeared to be a gun, which Springfield police later determined was an airsoft pellet gun pistol. School staff called 911 and the building was placed on lockdown.
Both men were at the school to pick-up their children. Sanders said he uses the airsoft gun to scare off cats on his property and had no idea he’d left it in his back pocket when he went to the school. He noticed it before he went inside to use the bathroom, and handed it to Hanke. When he saw teachers pulling students inside classrooms and officers coming up the hallway, Sanders said he realized his mistake.
“I said,’it was an airsoft gun. It was me. I had to go to the bathroom. I left it with my buddy,” Sanders said.
Hanke, who was waiting outside, said he had no idea why police were flooding the grounds, or that he was carrying the “gun” officers were looking for.
“Somebody (came) out, says, ‘somebody’s got a gun.’ I didn’t know they were talking about us. I thought it was a real one myself,” he said.
Explaining to their children about what happened was a tough conversation, they said. While they believe the entire incident was a “big misunderstanding,” Sanders and Hanke agreed they felt the school and police acted appropriately.
“It could never be too much if it was something real,” Hanke said.
“They did their job and they handled it well. It just happened to be at my expense,” Sanders said.
Both men are barred from being on school grounds while their criminal cases are pending.