1-year expulsions for Tartan students with loaded handgun at school

Students will not serve time in correctional facility

Two 16-year-old Tartan High School students who were charged with felony possession of a dangerous weapon on school property have been expelled for the 2015-2016 school year.

The District 622 School Board followed administrative recommendations and approved a 12-month expulsion for both boys at its regular board meeting, May 26.

Assistant superintendent Troy Miller said the safety of the district's students and staff "is our top priority."

Miller told the board, "I want to assure you this was a very thorough process."

According to a complaint filed in Washington County Juvenile Court, Tartan students Abinadab Tesfahunen of Oakdale and Nathan Neng Xiong of Maplewood took turns carrying a loaded handgun in their backpacks at the school Monday, May 11.

Classmates informed a teacher that they saw the handgun in Tesfahunen's backpack during a fourth-period class that day. A written statement from the Oakdale Police Department said the teacher quickly alerted the school's resource officer, who recovered a loaded, holstered, .40-caliber handgun from Tesfahunen's backpack at 2:30 p.m.

Police report that Tesfahunen readily complied with the SRO's orders and willingly gave up the weapon without further incident. The SRO told police during the investigation he was confident there was no malicious intent involved with the incident and there were no threats of violence or conflicts with students or staff members.

Boys facing community service

Both students told police they were curious about the idea of having a gun and were showing it off at school.

Xiong reportedly admitted to police that he took the handgun from his father's hunting backpack, located in his father's bedroom, placed it into his own backpack and brought it with him to school that morning.

Police identified the weapon, as a .40-caliber "Smith and Wesson" handgun, with an ammunition magazine containing 13-.40-caliber bullets inserted into the handgun, however, there were no bullets loaded into the barrel of the gun. Xiong's father later provided police with the serial number of his handgun, which matched that of the one seized by the SRO.

Tesfahunen reportedly told police he had previously asked his friend Xiong to bring the gun to school so he could hold it. The boy told officers his plan was to hold onto the gun for a "little while," but decided that "wasn't going to work" so he planned to give the gun back to Xiong at the end of the school day.  

According to Minnesota Dangerous Weapons statutes, a person convicted of a felony for knowingly possessing a firearm on school property faces a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Both boys had initial court appearances in Washington County Juvenile Court late last month and were charged with felonies for possessing the gun at the school, but they will not be spending time in jail or a juvenile corrections facility.

Washington County juvenile division chief Tony Zdroik said there are essentially no sentencing guidelines in regards to juveniles when firearms are involved.

He said a likely disposition for the duo — based on similar offenses — would be 100 hours of community service. He stressed there was no malicious intent involved in the incident.

"They had a total misunderstanding of how dangerous guns are. ... They just wanted to be cool, and the other gave into peer pressure," he said.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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