1. News
  2. /
  3. Crime

Student who aimed to sell stolen gun had it stolen at school, deputies say. Five arrested.

It started with a 15-year-old, his 16-year-old friend, and a meeting in a Hernando High bathroom. Then three 17-year-olds made off with the weapon.
Sheriff Al Nienhuis, left, and school Superintendent John Stratton, second from left, describe the series of events that led to the arrest of five Hernando High students and the confiscation of a handgun. [PAIGE FRY  |  Paige Fry]
Sheriff Al Nienhuis, left, and school Superintendent John Stratton, second from left, describe the series of events that led to the arrest of five Hernando High students and the confiscation of a handgun. [PAIGE FRY | Paige Fry]
Published Sep. 6, 2019
Updated Sep. 6, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — Five Hernando High School students are facing felony charges after one of them brought a stolen gun to sell on campus only to have it stolen from him by other students.

The Thursday morning incident prompted a two-hour lockdown at Hernando High and surrounding schools. At a news conference Friday, the Hernando County sheriff and school superintendent provided details about what happened.

“We never want to face these issues, but when we do, it’s nice to know that we are prepared to react,” Superintendent John Stratton said. “We will seek expulsion for those students.”

The Tampa Bay Times is not identfying the students because of their ages.

It all started when a 15-year-old boy stole a Ruger 9mm handgun from a relative and brought it on a school bus, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said. He told a 16-year-old student that he planned to sell the gun at school and asked him to hold it.

The 16-year-old hid the gun in his backpack and brought it into school, Nienhuis said.

The 15-year-old then called a third student, who is 17, about buying the gun, and they agreed to meet in a school bathroom. Two more students, both 17, came with the other 17-year-old to meet the first two students.

RELATED STORY: Parents worried by allegations someone tried to sell a gun at Hernando High School

Bill Pope, Hernando High’s school resource deputy, received a tip at about 8:45 a.m. from a parent who had heard from a student about a gun on campus. The campus was placed on lockdown.

Before they reached the bathroom, the first 17-year-old told one of the others that he planned to steal the gun, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Inside the bathroom, he asked to see the gun and racked the slide a few times. The three 17-year-olds then ran out, left the building and headed toward the gym, the Sheriff’s Office said. The 15-year-old tried to chase them but lost sight of them.

The teen who had made off with the gun took it to a relative’s house and hid it under a mattress, Nienhuis said.

By 8:50 a.m., at least seven Sheriff’s Office units had arrived on campus, increasing to 22 within the next 20 minutes.

Deputies found the other two 17-year-olds on campus at 8:56 a.m. on campus and took them into custody to question them, the Sheriff’s Office said. Later, the 15-year-old and 16-year-old were taken into custody.

Finally, at 9:36 a.m., deputies found the boy who made off with the gun. He was still at his relative’s house. The gun did not appear to be loaded. Deputies also found two other guns and a BB gun there.

This is the Ruger 9mm handgun that Hernando High School students tried to sell on campus Thursday, deputies say. [Hernando County Sheriff's Office]

“It doesn’t appear in hindsight that they intended on doing anything that particular day, but of course, we have no idea what their intent was in the future,” Nienhuis said.

“It’s frustrating. Kids are going to do things that are not the brightest and this is an example of that.”

The State Attorney’s Office will decide whether the teens are charged as adults, Nienhuis said. If so, they each face up to five years in prison on third-degree felony charges.

The two 17-year-olds accompanying the teen who made off with the gun have had run-ins with the law before. One was arrested on a felony charge of issuing a written threat to kill, and the other had a robbery arrest, a nonviolent arrest and was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The 15-year-old also had two prior non-violent felonies.

The Sheriff’s Office said parents of the students arrested have been cooperating with authorities.

RELATED STORY: Hernando County deputies find no evidence of reported person with gun at Central High School

On Thursday, some parents expressed concerns about safety on campus. Superintendent Stratton said the school district and the Sheriff’s Office are considering steps to ensure campus safety.

These include securing perimeters around campus, bringing in metal detectors and establishing a student safety group. Hernando High already has a care team and staff is monitoring students who may have felt traumatized by the incident, Stratton said.

“If it were not for the parents involved or the students involved, we certainly would not be where we are in the investigation," Nienhuis said, "and we certainly would not be able to prevent something bad in the future happening with those guns.”


  1. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking for information about a man accused of killing a duck at a Town 'N Country apartment complex in Tampa. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. [Bay News 9]
    He used bread to lure the bird in before killing it. A complaint was filed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  2. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    A man university police believe was target shooting near campus was not located, the university said.
  3. Luke Carl Neimi was arrested Thursday after Pinellas deputies said he was caught doing 145 mph on the Bayside Bridge. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    He told deputies he was just “having some fun,” according to an arrest report.
  4. Gary Hudge, 54, paid an undercover detective to kill his brother, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [Pinellas County jail]
    Gary Hudge also offered to buy the hitman a bus ticket, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  5. St. Petersburg police say Kristoff A. King, left, faces a murder charge in connection with the death of Scott Jenks, 48, whose body was found Tuesday morning in the parking lot of the Northgate Center parking lot at 1144 94th Ave. N [Alachua County Sheriff's Office]
    Scott Jenks, 48, was found dead in a St. Petersburg shopping center parking lot on Tuesday.
  6. Ex-St. Petersburg police Officer Matthew Enhoffer is set to plead guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. In this 2015 picture, he received the St. Petersburg Police Department's Medal of Valor for his actions in a shootout with a troubled teenager that year. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Matthew Enhoffer once received the Medal of Valor from the St. Petersburg Police Department. Now a federal judge will decide his fate.
  7. Two babirusa pigs are shown at Lowry Park Zoo in this photo from 1995. A Tampa Bay couple is accused of distributing remnants from exotic animal species, including a babirusa skill. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Novita Indah and Larry Malugin sold more than 3,000 items made from the animals over a period of more than five years, federal officials said.
  8. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    The resignation is the latest in the unusual saga that resulted in an accused child molester, James Rybicki, going free.
  9. Jaime Javier Amoguea Fonseca, 32, of Tampa was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse after he pressed a lit cigar against the bare back of a boy during a Santería ceremony in a Tampa home early Sunday, police said. Amoguea Fonseca told police the burn was an accident that happened while he was possessed by spirits, an arrest report says. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    He said his cigar accidentally burned the boy’s back but he “was unaware of what was happening due to being possessed by the spirits," a report says.
  10. Osceola County Sheriff's Office patrol cars are posted outside a home in Celebration, Wednesday, in Kissimmee, Fla. Authorities in Florida have charged a physical therapist with killing his wife, their three young children and a dog in the affluent suburb near Walt Disney World. The bodies were discovered Monday in a rental home that sold last April. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) [JOE BURBANK  |  AP]
    The bodies were discovered in a rental home that sold last April for $650,000 in Celebration, an affluent community near Disney World.