MERRILLVILLE | A Pierce Middle School eighth-grader brought a loaded handgun to school earlier this month, apparently to appear "cool and tough," police said.
The 14-year-old Merrillville boy, along with another Merrillville boy and a girl, were charged Friday in Lake County Juvenile Court with illegal possession of a handgun.
The other boy and the girl charged in the matter also are eighth-graders at Pierce, police said. Police have declined to provide the names of the three who were charged because they are juveniles.
All students have been suspended pending an expulsion hearing, Merrillville police Sgt. Tim Finnerty said.
Finnerty, who serves as Merrillville's school resource officer, said one of the two boys brought the gun to school March 6 and gave it to the second boy, at which point rumors began circulating throughout the school.
The two boys became scared and later during the day passed the gun to the girl, who allowed it to be placed into her locker, Finnerty said.
Finnerty said it appeared the boy brought the gun to school to be "cool," though the boy's full reasoning is not known.
"I think he was trying to be tough and trying to be cool," Finnerty said.
It's also uncertain where the handgun came from or where it is now because it was removed from the school the day it was brought in and not recovered by police, Finnerty said.
"I don't know where the gun is and don't know where he got it from. That's the scary thing," Finnerty said.
Finnerty said at least five Pierce students saw the handgun, described as a 9mm Ruger semi-automatic, and gave statements to officials.
Other students, who knew about the gun, also have been suspended by school officials, Finnerty said.
Finnerty was unable to provide the number of students who had been suspended, referring that question to Merrillville Community School Corp. Superintendent Tony Lux.
Lux said two to three other students face suspension.
"We don't have a final number," he said.
He said students can't remain silent.
"We don't accept the fact that they don't want to tell. People's safety is at stake," Lux said.
Finnerty said there is zero tolerance at the school for anyone bringing in a gun or any kind of weapon.
"If someone saw the gun and didn't say anything, they can be charged," Finnerty said.
Finnerty said this marked the first time in his three years as school resource officer that a gun had reportedly been brought to a Merrillville school.
"Someone brought a knife to school last year. It's very surprising in this day and age," Finnerty said.
The school became aware of the situation after a teacher picked up on some talk about it, Lux previously said.