Gulf Breeze Fla April 23 2009
The 61-year-old mother of a Gulf Breeze High School student was arrested Monday morning in the school’s front parking lot for possessing a concealed .38-caliber handgun and a pocket knife under a trench coat she was wearing.
Judy Hall, of 1139 Finch Drive in Gulf Breeze, apparently was trying to make a point about security at Gulf Breeze High before she was arrested by Officer Kerstan Tatro, the Gulf Breeze Police School Resource Officer.
Hall was charged with bringing a gun onto the school campus, resisting arrest without violence and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
Ironically, the incident occurred on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting massacre in Littleton, Colo., in which 15 people, including two student gunmen, died in one of the worst school shootings in the country’s history.
Monday’s drama unfolded at 9:05 a.m. near the front entrance to the school. Hall had an appointment with Tatro to discuss an issue concerning her freshman son when Tatro saw Hall and the boy talking outside Tatro’s window. Tatro determined there was a problem and went outside to intervene.
Tatro engaged Hall, who curiously had taken a trench coat from her truck and put it on moments earlier.
“Anyone could walk into the school with a trench coat on and a gun in their pocket and start killing people,” Hall told Tatro, according to the police report.
She continued to say that she had a .38 gun in her pocket at that very moment.
Shocked, Tatro asked Hall if she was serious. She replied, “Yes.”
Tatro took Hall into custody, and a pat-search revealed a handgun in the pocket of the trench coat. Hall resisted arrest, and a further search uncovered a folding pocket knife in her possession.
Several fellow GBPD officers arrived to assist Tatro and found another loaded handgun in Hall’s truck, which was parked in front of the high school entrance. Tatro intervened before Hall could put that weapon in her pocket.
After Hall was transported to police headquarters, officers searched her home and recovered five more weapons, including two handguns, two rifles and a shotgun. Various calibers of ammunition were also recovered. Hall was transported to Santa Rosa County Jail in Milton, where she was being held Tuesday as Gulf Breeze News went to press.
Gulf Breeze High Principal Sylvan Ladner said the situation was handled expediently and effectively, and no one was in danger of being hurt, thanks to Tatro’s alert, quick action.
“There was no threat of violence or danger to any of the students or any person here at the high school,” Ladner said. “(Hall) did have a firearm, but it was not loaded. It was not capable of creating any level of violence to anyone.”
The fact that a separate loaded gun was found in Hall’s vehicle prompted some parents in communication with Gulf Breeze News to question Ladner’s assessment. But Ladner insisted the incident was handled as it should have been.
“We did everything possible (to diffuse the situation),” he said. “We have outside doors that were secured. There are some doors that the students have to come in and out of the building. The resource officer’s office is located near the front entrance.
“The Gulf Breeze Police Department did a fantastic job. They were here immediately and resolved the situation as quickly as possible.”
The school initiated an automated voice message/e-mail to all parents to inform them of the situation and ease their fears. Some excited students sent text messages or made calls to parents on cell phones, informing them of the incident and discussing numerous rumors.
Some alarmed parents went to the school to check on their children’s safety. An assistant principal said 170 students checked out as a result of the incident.
School begins daily at 9:15 a.m. at Gulf Breeze High. The incident occurred about 10 minutes prior to that time, and the parking lot was filling with students’ vehicles at the time.
Gulf Breeze News visited the campus at about 10:15 a.m., and there was no visible indication anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Students were gathered on a deck area on the east end of the school building, and other students walked to the U.S. Highway 98 overpass to get to class at the field house.
By noon, local media remote broadcast trucks had gathered in the field house parking lot to file live reports. Later, footage on WEAR-TV 3 showed Hall being led from police headquarters into a cruiser to be transported to Santa Rosa County Jail in Milton, where she was ordered to be held without bond.
Hall told a reporter “to read about it in the paper,” then winked and made a kiss gesture to the camera.
Follow Us On Twitter/privateofficer
Join Us At MySpace/privateofficernews
Join The National Association of Private Officers