(NEW YORK) — A Tennessee middle school counselor is being hailed a hero after she talked a 14-year-old boy who came to school with a loaded gun out of his alleged plans to shoot teachers and a police officer this week, according to the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office.
Molly Hudgens, a counselor at Sycamore Middle School in Pleasant View, Tennessee, “single-handedly” prevented a “potential deadly mass shooting” on Wednesday, Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove said at a news conference.
Shortly after the first-period class that day, the 14-year-old student requested to speak to Hudgens, according to the sheriff. Upon entering her office, he “started asking various questions that alarmed” Hudgens, who “sensed that something was wrong.”
After asking if he had a gun, the student “affirmed he did” and that he was holding it “under his clothing,” Breedlove said. The teen then “advised Ms. Hudgens that he was going to kill some teachers and a police officer — not students,” according to Breedlove.
The 14-year-old “indicated that she would be the only one to talk him out of it,” the sheriff said.
Hudgens spent nearly an hour talking to the armed 14-year-old and eventually convinced him to give her his gun, Breedlove said.
The sheriff added that the counselor “had a lot on her shoulders” as she was simultaneously trying to alert law enforcement using her cell phone in “a discreet manner” so she would not alarm the teen or cause him to panic.
After successfully alerting school officials and law enforcement, and recovering the teen’s gun, deputies with the sheriff’s office arrived within a few minutes, Breedlove said. They recovered a “fully loaded semi-automatic handgun, along with additional ammunition,” and took the teen into custody, he said.
It appears that the gun belonged to the teen’s family, who are fully cooperating with the investigation, the sheriff said. When asked by reporters if the family could face charges, he said, “we’re not looking at that at this point.”
Hudgens “was able to diffuse a potential deadly mass shooting,” Breedlove said. She “single-handedly saved the lives of many people and should be recognized as a hero in our community.”
Though the 14-year-old did not name any specific school employees or students as his targets while talking with Hudgens, he did name specific school employees he was targeting during an interview with deputies, Breedlove told ABC News.
The teen has been charged with “with carrying and possession of a weapon on school property and communicating a threat to a certain school employee,” and is currently being held at the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Center, the sheriff said.
It was not clear if the teen had obtained a lawyer as of Friday, and the teen has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him, Breedlove told ABC News. He added that the teen will be undergoing mental health evaluations prior to his next court hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.
Cheatham County School District’s communications director, Tim Adkins, said at the news conference on Thursday that “the district followed all necessary procedures and that the district’s safety plan was properly utilized.” He added that Sycamore Middle School and Sycamore High School “were temporarily placed on a lockout status” on Wednesday “as a precautionary measure.”
The district was “not aware of any other additional threats” and resumed “normal, day-to-day operations” on Thursday,” Adkins said.
Hudgens, the hero counselor, released her own statement in a video posted to the district’s Facebook page on Thursday. In the video, Hudgens can be seen wearing a shirt with the phrase “Life is beautiful” on it.
“Sycamore Middle has been my home for almost 19 years, and the safety of our school is a responsibility that I take very seriously as a school counselor,” she says. “Yesterday, my previous training and experience granted me the opportunity to help a student in need while protecting our school family as well.
“… Sycamore Middle School is safe and our students will continue to be afforded that same hedge of protection that they received prior to this event,” Hudgens continues. “… We appreciate, again, all of the support from our community and look forward to the continuation of our great school year.”
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