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Girl, 8, finds mom’s handgun in backpack at school in St. Paul

ST. PAUL — Police are investigating how a gun ended up in the backpack of an 8-year-old girl at a school in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The child was getting ready to go outside and play Monday afternoon, June 3, when she placed her backpack on the floor and heard a thud, police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster said.

When the student opened the bag, she found a handgun inside and immediately told her teacher, Ernster said.

John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary Principal Lisa Gruenewald responded immediately and secured the gun, she wrote in a letter to parents. She said the incident happened at the end of the school day.

“Nobody was threatened; nobody was injured,” Ernster said. “(The girl) told staff she didn’t know there was a gun in her backpack.”

Police were sent to the school just after 3 p.m. Monday. Officers found that the 9 mm pistol was loaded but that there was not a round in the chamber, meaning it would not have fired a bullet if someone had only pulled the trigger.

The gun belongs to the girl’s mother, Ernster said. The child told police she didn’t know how the gun got into her backpack, and she was released to her mother.