By Bob Uphues
Riverside police charged an 18-year-old Brookfield man with disorderly conduct after he allegedly walked past Riverside-Brookfield High School with what looked to be a gun in his hand.
A police officer from Brookfield Zoo first noticed the man, who was walking eastbound in front of the school on Ridgewood Road toward First Avenue about 1:45 p.m. on June 11. That officer contacted Riverside police, who took the man into custody at Park Place and Lincoln Avenue.
According to Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, who responded to the scene, officers placed their hands on their weapons and ordered the man to drop the handgun, which he did.
At that time police learned the gun was an Airsoft-style replica Glock pistol with an orange tip on the barrel. However, said Weitzel, the way the man was carrying the gun, it wasn't possible to tell whether the weapon was real or not.
"There is no way you could determine it was not a real gun when it was first observed," said Weitzel, who noted the man is attending summer classes at Riverside-Brookfield High School. Police were able to determine that he had been in class earlier that day, but were unable to determine whether he brought the gun to school with him. According to Weitzel, the man said he found the gun in a park a couple of days earlier.
"He didn't think it was a big deal," said Weitzel, who characterized the man's decision to walk past the school holding with what looked to be a real handgun as "stupidity."
Weitzel said police took the report seriously in light of multiple shooting incidents at schools around the country since the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012. Another school shooting was reported June 10 in Oregon.
"In light of the recent shooting at a school in Oregon, it baffles me that someone would intentionally carry even a replica handgun in front of a school," Weitzel said. "While the school was not in regular session, there were students attending summer classes and other summer functions, and the school was open for business."