Wilkinsburg police weigh charges against several in Turner incident
April 15, 2010 8:00 AM
From left, Wilkinsburg police Detective Mike Adams, Mayor John Thompson, Wilkinsburg school Superintendent Archie Perrin and police Chief Ophelia Coleman speak about the Turner Elementary School third-grader who brought stamp bags of heroin to school on Tuesday.
By Deborah M. Todd Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wilkinsburg police said they believe no students ingested the contents of 78 bags of heroin that were brought to school by an 8-year old on Tuesday.
However, they could not say for sure how 18 bags, some opened, ended up in the classroom's trash can.
The third-grader at Turner Elementary School was found with 60 folded bags of heroin, stamped with the message "Trust Me," during state standardized testing Tuesday morning. The heroin was discovered when a teacher noticed the student tending to items in his pockets and asked what he had.
After the incident was reported and police began to investigate, 18 additional bags were discovered in the trash in the boy's classroom.
Following dismissal on Tuesday, the entire building was searched and no additional bags were found.
Detective Mike Adams said the bags held such a small amount of drugs that the contents most likely spilled onto the floor without being noticed. The drugs have an estimated street value of $10 per bag.
"It's a sad day that you would have this type of situation occur. Where an 8-year old child would have his hands on this much illegal narcotics," said Wilkinsburg police Chief Ophelia Coleman. "There are people who have lived their lives, have died and gone to their glory and have never even seen anything like heroin in their lives."
Chief Coleman said the substance tested positive as heroin with a drug field test kit, but will be sent to the Allegheny County crime lab for further confirmation. The student, his mother and school staff have been interviewed and Allegheny County Children Youth and Families has been contacted.
No arrests have been made so far, and no charges are expected against the child because of his age. Chief Coleman refused to discuss details of the ongoing investigation but said charges are pending against a number of suspects.
During the course of the investigation on Wednesday, school officials determined that he child lives in a Pittsburgh neighborhood with his mother. He was enrolled in the district less than six months ago, based on false residency documents, said Wilkinsburg schools Superintendent Archie Perrin.
"This does not cast a bad light on Turner Elementary School," said Chief Coleman.
Mr. Perrin sent a letter Tuesday afternoon advising parents to talk to their children about the incident and whether they had any exposure to the drugs. Chief Coleman said at least one student was given a bag, and later discarded it in a trash can. Mr. Perrin said parents of students who may have come in contact with the bags were told to monitor the children for signs of illness.
She would not answer questions regarding the child's parents or home situation, but said that the child was modeling behaviors of people close to him.
"At the age of eight you don't have that much awareness of what you're doing. You know by what you are used to, what you're familiar with. If you live in an environment where that's what you see, you start emulating and imitating and that's what kids do unfortunately. Parents and the adult population aren't setting good examples for young people to follow," she said.
"I don't think this child had any malicious thought on his mind at all. He was simply going through an act of probably something he saw on television or in the streets or part of an environment," added Mr. Perrin. "I don't think it was his desire to sell things, or distribute, or anything else. I think he's an 8-year old child and he's doing what 8-year old children do."
Mr. Perrin said the child has not returned to school and the offense is being treated as a violation of the district's code of student conduct.