Police say no gun was found after morning scare at Free State High School; student reportedly runs from police because of vape pen

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, is pictured Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.

Lawrence police responded to Free State High School after a student reportedly ran from a school resource officer who was investigating a report of a gun Tuesday morning.

A student reported to a teacher around 8 a.m. that they overheard another student talking about a gun in a bathroom Tuesday, said Sgt. Drew Fennelly with the Lawrence Police Department in an email to the Journal-World. The school resource officer attempted to question three students separately about the report after separating the students from their backpacks, and when one of the students was questioned, he fled the school, Fennelly said.

The student was pursued by the SRO and multiple Lawrence police patrol vehicles responded to assist. The student ceased running from police voluntarily after stopping at a vehicle nearby. Police determined that the student ran from the SRO because he was in possession of a vape pen, Fennelly said.

After a search of the students’ bags, it was determined that the students were not in possession of a firearm and that no students were at risk, Fennelly said.

Fennelly emphasized the important role that the SRO plays in school safety.

“We continue to be thankful for this outstanding relationship, and will continue to work closely with district staff to ensure our schools remain a safe place to learn,” Fennelly said.

The students who were questioned told school staff that they were talking about a soft-pellet gun, said Julie Boyle, spokesperson for the school district.

“All are safe at school and staff have informed families of what happened,” Boyle said.

In an email to parents, Free State Principal Amy McAnarney said that the gun the students were talking about was a “Soft Pellet Splatter Ball Gun” used by a student in a game yesterday and it was not on campus.

In a second email, McAnarney said that the student who fled was detained and police did not find a weapon in the student’s possession.

First email:

Good morning,

A student overheard other students this morning talking about a gun. When the students and their belongings were searched, there was no gun found. The students shared that they had been talking about a Soft Pellet Splatter Ball Gun that one of them had used in a game the previous day and not on our campus.

Thank you to the student who reported this so that it could be checked out. We are glad nothing was found and will continue to emphasize sharing information for the safety of our campus in light of events happening around the country.

Thank you and have a good day.

Amy McAnarney


Second email:

Good morning,

The Lawrence Police Department has just now completed their investigation regarding the rumor of a gun at FS this morning. We appreciate your patience as we were waiting to report additional information when we had all of the facts from them. The information that you may have seen on the LPD police scanner reported a student running from the building, and that student was detained by police to make sure that student was not in possession of a gun. Again, no gun was found, and the police have wrapped up the investigation.

Thank you.

Amy McAnarney



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