Fifth Graders on a Field Trip Find a Gun in a Rock Island, Illinois PD Jail Cell

Rock Island, Illinois police station (Via Facebook)

‘Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult. Those are the four gun safety steps all young people should learn in dealing with any firearm they may inadvertently encounter “in the wild.”  Fifth graders on a field trip to the Rock Island, Illinois police department never dreamed they’d come across a gun in the course of their tour of the facility. Their parents probably didn’t either.

Yet it happened. Inside the pillow of a holding cell cot, a precocious fifth grader felt the distinctive outline of a handgun hidden within. Clearly whoever was tasked with cleaning the cell after the last occupant didn’t do such a hot job. Or someone in the department wanted to gain some not-so-good national attention for the department. Either way, the department has egg on its face.

The kid who found the gun notified staffers and the rest of the gaggle of kids were quickly ushered away as officers recovered an unloaded handgun stuffed in the pillow.

KWQC has the story:

At 12:23 p.m., a group of fifth-grade students from Eugene Field were participating in a tour of the police department.

During the tour, Interim Police Chief Tim McCloud said students were allowed to step inside a holding cell when one of them pushed on a pillow and felt a handgun hidden inside, officials said.

The student alerted staff, who immediately took possession of the weapon. Officials said no students physically saw or touched the gun, which was unloaded and stolen from a burglary that happened in Milan in 2022, officials said.

Rock Island-Milan School District officials were notified immediately, officials said.

Once made aware of the situation, district officials immediately contacted parents of the students, officials said. Once those parents were notified, incoming Superintendent Dr. Sharon Williams sent a message to all Eugene Field families explaining the situation.

“Scholar safety is our top priority in the Rock Island-Milan School District,” Williams said. “We appreciate the efforts of the Rock Island Police Department to keep our scholars safe during this trip.

Given the embarrassing situation, the Rock Island PD issued the following statement:

A message from Interim Chief McCloud:

As you may have learned, during a tour of our police department on Friday for the Eugene Field Elementary School, a student located an unloaded handgun hidden inside a pillow in a holding cell. The entire incident raises a number of questions, the most important being, “how could this have happened?”

Let me first say that we make no excuses for this mistake and as we work to determine what actions or inactions contributed to this unfortunate situation, we know and expect that the citizens of Rock Island rightfully hold their police department to a standard that we did not meet. You entrust us to safeguard our community, especially our most vulnerable, and we fell short of that. As your police department, we have to do better and we will do better.

Once I learned of the situation, I immediately launched an internal investigation of the incident with our Office of Professional Standards. I spoke directly with the students, staff, and parents present to apologize for what they went through, thank them for their quick thinking, and promise them that we will work to ensure this never happens again. I contacted Eugene Field Elementary Principal Alongi to inform her of the situation, and then spoke with incoming Superintendent Dr. Sharon Williams who enacted a plan to notify parents.

We have initiated an intense review of our policies and procedures to determine what gaps may have led to this error. As a matter of clarification, our temporary holding cells are not jail cells and typically go several months without being used. When not in use, the cells are kept locked and no one, including cleaning staff, enter inside. Regardless, our citizens demand accountability and if it is determined that existing policies or procedures were not followed, those involved will receive appropriate repercussions. As we work to rebuild your trust, we will also be enacting additional and ongoing training with our personnel to ensure this type of incident is never repeated.

Yes, the department failed to meet even basic standards. Fortunately the gun was unloaded and the kid who found it knew better than to pick it up and wave it around or pull the trigger. It could have turned out very differently.

At the same time it’s a wonderful illustration of the failure of “gun-free” zones. Even in a supposedly sterile, police-controlled ultra-gun-free zone like a custodial lockup, guns can still find their way in. But designating so-called “sensitive places” like Times Square as off-limits is sure to work, right?

5 Responses

  1. “The kid who found the gun notified staffers and the rest of the gaggle of kids were quickly ushered away as officers recovered an unloaded handgun stuffed in the pillow.”

    As far as I’m concerned, that’s an open-and-shut case of “Finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers”.

    The kid should keep the gun… 😉

    1. I see Rock Island is in Illinois, and a quick confirms Rock Island Auction is as well, and Rock Island Auction is noted for auctioning some really, *really* cool machine guns, how can they get away with that, since Illinois is supposedly machine-gun free, for normal folks?

  2. This is just up the river from where I live and we get our news out of the Quad cities (WQAD and KWQC) . It has been reported that the holding cell in question supposedly hadn’t been used in almost a month. Which is understandable considering most criminals are released with hours under the SAFE T act.

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