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Guns found near school

Three Hallinan kids discover three guns Monday
by: Vern Uyetake, Hallinan Elementary School students, from left, Jake McKee, Marcus Wheeler and Jack Schwarz stand in a wooded area outside of the school near the spot where they found three guns on Monday.

Their only plan was to build a fort in the wooded area near Hallinan Elementary School, not find real weapons to potentially play with.

But that's exactly what happened to three Hallinan students on Monday when they made their way into deep brush about 75 yards off school property.

In a small valley near a creek bed, nearby residents Jack Schwarz, Marcus Wheeler and Jake McKee spied trash bags and thought they had happened upon a makeshift dump.

They peeled back the plastic to find a .22 caliber rifle, 12-gauge shotgun and pellet gun, all placed in gun cases. At first, they thought the guns were toys.

'I was like, 'OK, why would there be guns in a school forest? This is kind of weird,'' said Schwarz, a sixth-grader at Hallinan.

The boys immediately notified their babysitter, 14-year-old Kelly Bartz, who then called her mom to alert the Lake Oswego Police Department.

'They were really nervous until the police got here,' Bartz said, adding that she was worried the gun owner was nearby.

Responding LOPD officer Craig Renning, a former school resources officer, removed the weapons and determined the guns were not loaded.

Although he originally said no ammunition was involved, Renning later confirmed that the cases included three clips of bullets.

Police are using data systems to trace the guns and are trying to determine if they can connect the guns to local burglaries.

'It's found property and we're in the process of finding out who (it belongs) to,' Renning said.

Renning added that their placement in heavy brush suggests the guns may have been stolen and stashed.

When asked if there could be a connection between the location of the guns and the nearby school, Renning responded: 'I'm not going to take that leap yet.'

'There's no reason to be alarmed at this point,' he said.

School officials, including Hallinan Principal Steve Mauritz, notified staff and parents of the incident throughout the day Monday. Mauritz was away from the school when the guns were found.

It's the first time Maurtiz can recall a 'weapons-related' incident at an elementary school in the 20 years he's been with the district.

Hallinan staff makes gun safety part of its yearly curriculum. The district also has a 'no weapons' policy, which includes water guns and other toy firearms.

'I was delighted that the students followed the safety protocol,' Mauritz said. 'My biggest concern is that you always assume you're safe and secure, but anytime anything like this happens, it raises the importance of being alert.'

Mauritz plans to honor the students for their bravery and smart decision-making.

'We'll look for an opportunity to make this a teaching experience,' he said.

Teachers returned to Hallinan this week for meetings, while students return for classes on Tuesday.

'Certainly, we don't want to minimize our reaction to it … It's not the sort of thing you want to start school with,' Mauritz said.

Jack's mom, Marlo Schwarz, advised her son not to play in the section of woods where the guns were found until police have more information.

'I just want to know why the (guns) were left there,' she said. 'That's all I want to know … It's just not something that happens here. It's one of those things that could have been really tragic.'

For the boys, the find was a lot more exciting than building a fort out of sticks and rocks.

'It was the least thing (expected) to happen behind a school,' Wheeler said matter-of-factly.

Anyone with information about the guns should call LOPD at 503-635-0250.