What a Md. school resource officer learned after student brought handgun to class

WASHINGTON — The day after the Feb. 14 fatal mass school shooting at Parkland, Florida, a student in Montgomery County, Maryland, was arrested for bringing a loaded handgun to his high school. And the school resource officer who made the arrest shared what led up to it and what he’s learned on the job.

A tip from another student at Clarksburg High School led Officer Troy Melott to 18-year-old Alwin Chen, the honor student who had brought a handgun to school on Feb. 15.

Pictured is the handgun recovered on Feb. 15 at Clarksburg High School. Alwin Chen, 18, of Germantown, Maryland, was charged after he brought the loaded handgun to school. (Courtesy Montgomery County police)

Melott, who has been assigned to Clarksburg High for several years, told WTOP the student tipster “basically stated that he thinks that there’s a kid he knows that may have a weapon in the school that day.”

Melott and a school security staff member found out which class Chen was in just before the end of the school day. Chen was taken out of class to an area without other students, and he was separated from his bookbag.

Melott searched Chen to make sure he didn’t have any other weapons on him. The school resource officer then asked Chen if there was anything in his bookbag. That was when Chen admitted that he had a handgun in the bag.

“I went in the bag, found the weapon — it was in a soft, zipper handgun case — verified that it was indeed a handgun, and then basically made the arrest there,” Melott said.

He added that his time at Clarksburg has helped him build a rapport with the students and that it was important to have that connection so the students know he is there to protect them.

“I think that’s critical as a school resource officer to establish those relationships with students. The goal for all the SROs from my department is to establish those relationships so that we can learn more of what’s going on inside the school,” Melott said.

Montgomery County’s school resource officers meet at least once a month, Melott said, and anything that happens within the school district is discussed “so that we’re all on the same page.” He also touched upon the additional training school resource officers often undergo.

“As a police officer, in our mission statement, it is to lay down our lives for others if we need to, and you know, the fact of the matter is, I took that oath just like the rest of the county police that I work with and we take it seriously,” Melott said.

WTOP’s Teta Alim contributed to this report. 

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