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Officials react to possibility of a gun on campus

Students at Cairo High School had their classes disrupted Friday when police questioned three male students about a missing pistol. Those three students have not returned to class while police and school administrators continue their investigations.
To make sure the Glock .45-caliber handgun was nowhere on campus, Cairo High School Principal David McCurry ordered a campus-wide lockdown at 12:30 p.m., Friday. Students and teachers were locked in their classrooms while administrators and custodians began to look for the gun.
“We searched trash cans, dumpsters, bushes, anywhere we could think of where something like this could be hidden,” McCurry says. The lockers belonging to the three being questioned were also searched. After looking for nearly 90 minutes, the lockdown was ended shortly before 2 p.m.
The gun matter came to light when the stepfather of one of those three students contacted Cairo Police to report that a pistol was missing from a gun cabinet at his home on First Street Southeast, and he feared his juvenile stepson may have taken it. “There was no forced entry into the residence or the gun cabinet,” explains Cairo Police Chief Keith Sandefur.
Cairo Police picked up the stepson and two other boys who may have been connected to the missing pistol and brought them to the police department for questioning. “During the investigation, it was determined that one of the three had sold the firearm to an individual in Fort Valley, Ga., and that’s where we recovered the weapon from,” Sandefur says.
An adult male cousin visiting the family about two weeks prior had purchased the pistol from the owner’s juvenile stepson. Sandefur says the cousin returned the pistol to the Cairo Police Department Friday night.
As of Tuesday, there were no charges filed in the case. Sandefur says the gun’s owner does not want to pursue charges against his stepson. However, police are discussing what charges they may bring against both the cousin who bought the gun and the stepson who sold it without permission. He says the investigation is ongoing.
Cairo High School is also continuing its probe into the matter. “As of right now, the gun itself is not a school-related issue. The gun was never on campus,” McCurry says, “the main issue I’m dealing with is the disruption this caused on campus because of these three young men.” McCurry says he should have an opportunity to speak with the police investigator heading the case on Wednesday when the investigator returns to work. The principal says he will then be able to make a decision regarding the three students involved, and their school privileges.
McCurry says he is proud of how students at the school handled the precautionary lockdown, “It was amazing to see how cooperative everyone was. The students took it seriously and were very cooperative with the teachers.”
Grady County Superintendent Tommy Pharis conducted a follow up meeting on the incident Tuesday morning with Cairo Police Chief Sandefur and School Resource Officer Duke Donaldson; Mr. McCurry and Pete Williams from the high school; and Jerry Cox and Martha Fowler from the board of education.
Pharis’ notes on the meeting indicate the school administrators utilized email and intercoms to communicate with teachers, and followed preset procedures.
“As superintendent, overall I give everyone involved in our lockdown situation at CHS high marks. The school had a plan, and it worked. The CPD responded appropriately and professionally. The things I saw that made the difference between a potentially chaotic situation and the controlled investigation we had: prior planning and a calm, thoughtful decisive approach,” Pharis states in his notes regarding the meeting.

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