Unalaska Teens May Face Charges After July Incident Involving Handgun

Aug 28, 2018

The Unalaska Department of Public Safety started investigating the incident last week. A student first reported it to school officials on Thursday after participating in the “Rachel’s Challenge” program.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB

Authorities are deciding whether to file charges against two Unalaska teenagers who allegedly used a handgun to threaten another teen in July.  

The incident was first reported to adults on Thursday.

While a press release from the Department of Public Safety described it as "disturbing," Acting Director Jennifer Shockley has declined to share specifics.

She did say that no one was physically injured and there are no threats against local schools.

"This didn't occur on school property or while school was in session," said Shockley. "But the fact that it involves students is concerning, because it's not necessarily a huge step to go from it being a student during the summer to it being a student at the school."

The accused students have not been taken into custody. They've been doing schoolwork from home since officials became aware of the incident and opened an investigation.  

Shockley said their families are cooperating, and police have sent early findings to the state Division of Juvenile Justice.

She expects to make a decision about charges by the end of the week.

"All of the people involved are under 18, so we don't go through the same channels we would if we were dealing with the same crime with adults," she said. "We're working with our Juvenile Justice contacts in terms of deciding what, if any, charges should be filed and what action should be taken next."

In the meantime, the Unalaska City School District is trying to reassure the community that it's safe for students to go to school.

A handful of families kept their children out of class on Monday, but Principal Jim Wilson said that's not necessary.

"There's a lot of fear out there right now in the community," he said. "[I'm] just trying to stress to folks that this is a safe environment. Keep in mind that this was the act of a few students over the course of the summer. It did not involve the general student body. It did not involve a threat to school."

Wilson is also encouraging students to report any safety concerns to school staff.

He said the July incident only came to light last week because a student spoke up after participating in Rachel's Challenge. The program was created after the Columbine school shooting in 1999 to reduce violence and encourage compassion and communication in schools.

"I really, truly believe that part of what we've learned in this whole situation is that kids are willing to come forward and talk," said Wilson. "We're in the middle of difficult situation now, but the idea that kids wanted to talk to adults is a very positive first step."

Now, Wilson said school staff and Public Safety officials are increasing their visibility and trying to be more available to students.

Staff will be stationed in school hallways more often, while on-duty police are expected to oversee arrival and dismissal occasionally over the next few weeks.