CHARLOTTE, N.C. — July 2018 in Center City. July 2020 near South End. July 2021 in Shelby.
Gun owners who reported their weapons stolen later learned their guns turned up on three high school campuses. Those three guns are among 23 found at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools so far this school year.
Police refused to release details of the origins of those guns, so WCNC Charlotte requested police reports and used unique identifiers, including serial numbers, to trace where the guns originated.
"I feel so bad."
A gun owner shared those words with WCNC Charlotte. She reported her revolver stolen more than three years ago only to learn a high school student brought it to campus last week. Police reports reveal officers found the woman's gun and one other in the West Charlotte High School parking lot on Dec. 9. The school is roughly three miles away from her home.
The woman, who has a rising high school student of her own, said she left her gun in the backseat of her locked car while she was away on vacation.
"I put it down on the floor and put something over it," she said. "My doors were locked, but the back door had problems where it wouldn't always lock."
A police report shows her case eventually turned inactive after investigators "exhausted" all leads. On the morning of Dec. 9, CMPD reported arresting "several juveniles" found in possession of the guns.
"I reported that gun stolen," she told WCNC Charlotte. "Thank God I did. I feel so bad."
Seven stolen guns found at CMS schools
CMS records show the owners of six other guns, later found at district schools, reported thefts too.
In July 2020, a woman reported her gun stolen from a car near South End. Records show leads dried up in her "inactive" case too. More than a year later, almost 15 miles away, police records show her gun surfaced, along with a magazine and bullets, at North Mecklenburg High School, also on Dec. 9.
Police reported they charged a 16-year-old with possession of stolen goods, possession of a firearm by a minor and possession of a firearm on a school campus.
According to Huntersville Police Department Capt. Brian Vaughan, a school resource officer was helping school administrators with a "truancy issue" when they discovered the gun.
A third woman reported her gun stolen from her "secure" car in Shelby in July of this year. The gun, ammo and a magazine turned up a month later an hour away at Mallard Creek High School at the beginning of this school year, according to a police report.
The woman told WCNC Charlotte she can't help but wonder who is taking these guns and if it's gang-affiliated.
A police report linked to a gun found at Harding High School on Dec. 6 reveals CMPD assigned that case to the agency's gang unit.
Limited details from police
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police continue to say guns are too easily accessible, but when pressed for details of the origins of guns in schools, CMPD wouldn't say much. The agency refused to reveal how kids were able to get their hands on the guns, where they came from and whether they were linked to any crimes, calling that information part of the investigative case file and "not a public record."
"I've had kids tell me they could get guns in 20 minutes if they wanted to get guns and that's disturbing from a law enforcement standpoint, " CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said outside West Charlotte High School earlier this week. "We have had some guns that have been stolen, but all of them have not been coming from the homes."
Who are police charging?
A CMPD spokesperson said police have charged 24 kids in all related to gun reports this school year, but not all for gun crimes. Meanwhile, he confirmed the agency hasn't charged a single adult with failure to secure a firearm in these cases.
"Officers would need probable cause that an adult/guardian failed to secure a firearm properly," CMPD Public Information Officer Thomas Hildebrand said. "While I can't say with certainty, the lack of that charge in these cases would indicate that the threshold has not been met."
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