Woman arrested following gun scare at school
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | July 13,2013
Brent Curtis / Staff Photo
Police take Crystal Figueroa into custody near Castleton Elementary School after the school reported a woman with a gun the grounds. Police said Figueroa took the unloaded gun from a friend’s car, but she did not try to approach the school.
CASTLETON — There was never a threat to public safety at the town’s elementary school Friday, police said, but that wasn’t immediately clear in the minutes after a woman was seen carrying a handgun on school grounds just before noon.
Officials at the school locked the facility down and more than a dozen law enforcement officers from four state and local agencies converged on the school in a furious response that anticipated the worst.
But the circumstances turned out to bear no resemblance to the types of school shootings that have haunted the nation, Castleton Police Chief Bruce Sherwin said.
The chief said that what actually took place on school grounds Friday was a bit of thievery by Crystal Figueroa, 26, of Rutland.
As summer school classes ended at noon, a woman arrived at the school to pick up her child. She was accompanied by Figueroa.
When the parent went into the school, Figueroa remained in the car, Sherwin said.
As the woman was driving away, Sherwin said she realized a handgun she kept in the car was missing. The parent stopped a few hundred feet down the long driveway that leads from the school to Route 30 and confronted Figueroa, the chief said.
Staff at the school who watched the confrontation unfold saw the gun in Figueroa’s hand as she stood outside the vehicle and responded by calling police and securing the building, the chief said.
It also elicited a speedy police response.
Three minutes after the school called police at 11:48 a.m., Sherwin said he was the first officer to arrive at the scene. He was followed soon after by multiple officers and troopers from the Castleton and Fair Haven police departments, Vermont State Police and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Division.
“This was an appropriate response for the type of call this was,” Sherwin said. “Everyone acted according to pre-planned directives. Fortunately, it turned out to be a larceny rather than an actual threatening situation.”
School officials declined to answer questions about the incident, but the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union issued a statement later in the day:
“There was a disturbance that took place on the property of Castleton Elementary School today that came to the attention of school administration. School administration notified local law enforcement, who promptly responded to the situation. At no time were the students in (imminent) danger. For security purposes the building was placed on lockdown and students remained with their teachers until dismissal. No additional information is available at this time. As always, the safety of students and staff is our priority.”
Figueroa was taken from the scene in handcuffs and was later charged with a misdemeanor count of petty larceny. She was released on a citation to appear in Rutland criminal court on Aug. 26.
Sherwin said the handgun was recovered from the woods near the school where Figueroa allegedly tried to conceal it. The weapon was unloaded, he said.
The school scare was the second of its kind to take place in Rutland County since a mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., set nerves on edge for parents, school administrators and police across the nation.
An incident at the Poultney Elementary School just days after the Newtown shooting prompted a similar lockdown and large-scale police response. In that incident, staff at the school were alarmed by the behavior of a developmentally disabled young man who was waiting on the playground for his caretaker. No one was threatened or injured in that incident.