Student arrested after bringing gun to school

Leslie Fark

Antonio Summerville doesn't usually pick his 16-year-old daughter up after school, but an alarming text message she sent over the lunch hour Wednesday saying Woodruff High School was on lockdown changed his mind.

When a Journal Star reporter told Summerville that a high school junior had been arrested after District 150 police found an unloaded gun and ammunition in his locker, he was stunned.

"It's kind of scary," he said. "I wish I could have been notified earlier."

Shortly after school started Wednesday, campus police received information that Victor D. Simmons, 17, was in possession of a gun.

After a search of his locker, Simmons, of Peoria, was taken into custody and booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of unlawful use of a weapon at school, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and disorderly conduct. Simmons was jailed overnight, pending a bond hearing Thursday afternoon.

A motive for bringing the weapon to school was not released Wednesday.

One student who knows Simmons was shocked to hear he would bring a gun to school.

"I never thought he would do something like this. He was cool with everyone in school," said the 15-year-old freshman, who asked to remain anonymous.

As a precaution, school officials put the building on lockdown, and all the lockers were searched. Students were alerted of the lockdown over the public announcement system and were held an hour over in their third period classes. No other weapons were found, District 150 spokeswoman Stacey Shangraw said.

As a result, lunch periods were pushed back 20 minutes, which forced administration to shorten afternoon classes in order to end the school day on schedule.

"We all knew by lunch what had happened," said a 15-year-old freshman who asked that her name be withheld. "I was scared."

Another student, a 17-year-old junior, who also asked not to be named, said she's grown numb to the idea that guns have made their way into schools.

"It happens. I'm kinda used to it, I would say," she said. "But it's a good school. I feel safe. If I wasn't, I wouldn't go here."

Summerville agreed, saying though he was initially rattled that a gun was found on the property, he had a sense of peace knowing campus police quickly handled what may have been a devastating incident.

"I'm glad the security was on point to catch an incident like this to prevent another shooting from happening again," he said. "They must be doing their jobs."

On Jan. 26, 2005, Dion Alexander, then a 15-year-old freshman, fired three shots in a hallway as classes were changing at the school. No one was injured, but the incident shook the community and prompted increased school security.

Metal detectors were placed at every entrance to the school but have since been removed. Still in practice at all of the district's high schools is the procedure to randomly "wand" students with hand-held metal detectors every morning as they arrive.

Shangraw said students were sent home with a letter to inform their parents of the incident.

"We just hope parents realize safety is a top priority throughout our entire district," she said. "We do have an emergency crisis plan that outlines procedures for all incidents that could occur inside our buildings. This is our proactive approach to the reality that no school, whether it's public, private, inner city or small town, can say they're 100 percent safe."

Leslie Fark can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or