Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. St. Petersburg

Bullet fired through preschool window; no one injured, St. Petersburg police say

The incident took place at Allendale United Methodist Church just after 3 p.m. Eleven children were in the classroom.
A bullet hole is seen on the window to the right in the upper left-hand corner of an Allendale United Methodist Church preschool classroom Thursday in St. Petersburg. No one was injured in the incident. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 22
Updated Aug. 22

ST. PETERSBURG ― Police are investigating a bullet that was fired through a window of a preschool classroom at Allendale United Methodist Church on Thursday afternoon.

No one was injured in the incident, which was reported just after 3 p.m. Eleven children, all 2 years old, were in the room at the time, police said. A total of 44 children, ages 2 to 6, attend the preschool at 3803 Haines Road.

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said the shot had characteristics of a “stray bullet” and was likely not directed at the church. But investigators aren’t ruling anything out regarding motive, he said.

A sign in front of the church reads: “Dear God, Give courage to our elected officials to stand up to the NRA. Amen.”

Holloway said, "We’re going to investigate both angles of this.”

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, left, and pastor Rev. Andy Oliver address the media at Allendale United Methodist Church, where a bullet was fired through a preschool window Thursday. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

He said the bullet hit the top corner of a window on the northwest side of the church. It didn’t pierce the curtain inside and landed on the windowsill — both signs to investigators that it wasn’t moving very quickly.

Rev. Andy Oliver, who has been the church’s pastor for about three years, said the children inside the classroom hardly noticed the shot because it wasn’t very loud.

The church immediately initiated its safety plan by placing the building on lockdown, moving children to a safer place and calling parents, he said. Oliver met the children in the chapel and began reading them books, he said.

Oliver said parents came immediately after the incident to pick up their children. Most were calm as they listened to the preschool director explain that the school’s safety plan was carefully followed.

Khyre Edwards checked his phone Thursday afternoon to find more than a dozen messages from his wife, Victoria. She was frantic, he said, as she recounted a vague phone call from the school saying she needed to pick up their daughter early.

Edwards’ first thought was a school shooting, he said. It wasn’t much longer before he was listening to his 4-year-old daughter, Makena, say those exact words.

“We got to color with pastor Andy and we had a school shooting,” she told him calmly. But for him, the experience was terrifying.

Edwards said though schools have added security, like gates, fences and guards, it isn’t enough. Shootings will only stop when gun laws change, he said.

He spent a couple days earlier this week at the Pinellas County courthouse, listening to the trial of Michael Drejka, a man accused of fatally shooting another man last summer in Clearwater.

“It’s kind of hard to put guns out of your mind right now,” Edwards said. “It’s just hard, whether it’s random or not. ... This can’t be our new normal.”

The school will be closed Friday, Oliver said, and will have a stronger security presence when it reopens next week.

Investigators work the scene where a bullet was fired through the window of the preschool Thursday afternoon at Allendale United Methodist Church, 3803 Haines Road in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

“Come Monday, this will probably be one of the safest places in St. Petersburg," he said. “We’re going to keep doing everything we can to do our No. 1 job, which is to keep children safe.”

Holloway said all investigators know about the gun so far is that it was “not a rifle.” Police were canvassing the neighborhood to see whether residents saw anything or anyone suspicious near the church. They also were searching for any available surveillance video.

Police urged anyone with information about the incident to call (727) 893-7780 or send a text to tip411.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Reclaimed water rates are increasing 6 percent in St. Petersburg.
    Potable, waste and reclaimed water fees will all increase. So will garbage fees, though the stormwater fee will drop for some.
  2. Joshua Russell, 26, faces a charge of aggravated manslaughter, according to deputies. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A dose of kratom caused the caretaker to fall asleep for hours inside a hot minivan with the disabled man in the back seat, investigators said.
  3. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke Friday about a child protection investigator who was arrested on charges of falsifying reports. JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon
    It’s the second time in two years a Pinellas child protection investigator has faced falsification charges.
  4. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  5. Plans for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners referendum March 12 call for a $100 increase in the annual assessment for single-family units. Tom Germond
    The winner will fill the seat of a board member who moved.
  6. The Florida Association of Museums has named St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman its Outstanding Public Official for 2019.
    The organization recognizes those who contribute to the museum profession.
  7. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  8. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  9. Former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love hired Elle Resources as the agency's media and communications firm in 2018. The firm, owned by Michelle Ligon, was paid $5,000 every month, twice the limit on the fixed-price contract, a review by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development found. The review found eight violations of federal regulations and the federal agency has given the Housing Authority until Oct. 29 to explain the violations and come up with a corrective action plan.
    A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development review finds eight violations of federal rules at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, including “serious lapses” in the award and payment of...
  10. A man uses the bike lane on First Avenue S in 2018. A bicyclist was struck and killed while using the crosswalk in the 2800 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Street N, where the city installed new bike lanes. [TIMES (2018)]  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The crash took place on a stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N the city has tried to make safer to bike and walk on.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement