A tip from a worried parent about a student's threats to bring a gun to the Walton Central School has led to the discovery of a stolen handgun at the bottom of a reservoir, the arrest of two Walton men, and the unearthing of old fears in a community that still remembers the shooting of a local teacher nearly two decades ago.
The Village of Walton Police Department reports today that on Monday, May 21, a parent told police that a student had threatened to return to the school after Memorial Day Weekend with a handgun.
Upon investigation, police discovered that a handgun had been reported stolen from the town of Tompkins on Saturday, May 19. Police say they were able to connect the stolen handgun with a student, and conducted a search of the school.
During the search, police say, they found information that led them to the arrest of 52-year-old Jody B. Campbell and 30-year-old Michael C. McCall, both of Walton. Campbell was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and McCall was charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree. More charges are pending.
The handgun that was reported stolen was found on Friday, May 25, at the bottom of the West Brook reservoir, just outside the village. Police say the investigation is continuing.
In December of 1992, Walton Central School student Jason Hodge shot his English teacher, Virginia Wilcox, in the face. Wilcox survived. A 1993 New York Times story about rural school violence describes the shocking incident:
Shortly after her ninth-grade English class began that morning, Virginia Wilcox told a 15-year-old student to stop chattering or leave the room. He left, but returned minutes later with a .22-caliber rifle partly hidden by a towel. Towering over her, he pointed the rifle at her face and shot her.
Mrs. Wilcox is mending from surgery to reconstruct a shattered jaw; the boy has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted second-degree murder and assault and is now being held in a state juvenile facility in Nassau County, awaiting trial. And the district of 1,450 students is training teachers in crisis prevention.
"It's sad, because this student wasn't a stranger," said Mrs. Wilcox, who is on leave from her job this spring. "His family and my family have lived here for a long time. People expect this sort of thing to happen in big cities, not small towns."
On the website of WBNG-TV, which reported the recent school threat earlier today, several locals have left comments about the long shadow Wilcox's shooting still casts over the town.