School, St. John Police investigate gun incident on school property


The auto shop garage is closed. An incident involving a gun happened on Sept. 21.

Danica Mileusnic

At approximately 5:40 p.m. on Friday Sept. 21, according to the St. John Police, a concerned parent called in saying a community member entered Lake Central property in the Auto Shop area and the individual had a visible hand gun on his person. A series of events after the incident also led Mr. Dennis Brannock to be suspended pending investigation.

After a student had been reportedly driving recklessly in a neighborhood near the high school, the community member thought the student was endangering the area. Students say the irate man proceeded to follow the student back to the Auto Shop where he accused the student of driving recklessly. Then, Brannock was notified of his presence and stepped in.

“He came to talk to our Auto teacher about [the driving] and we did not know at the time that he had a gun, so our Auto teacher escorted him out and then that should have been the end of it. He drove back around, [and] kept name calling,” Cory Middleton (12) said.

The actions that preceded the incident are still unclear. Students claim that the teacher locked the doors of the auto shop to keep them safe and proceeded to call administration, but received no answer. Because it was late in the day on a Friday and they reportedly received no answer, students say he told the students he would deal with it at a later date.

“He tried calling the office [and] from what we know, no one picked up. So, he locked all the doors, got us inside and [told] us [that], we [would] deal with this more Monday because it is 5 o’clock on a Friday, [so] no one is at school,” Middleton said.

According to the St. John Police Department in a Press Release from Chief of Police James Kveton, no such immediate report was ever made and no lock down of the school or school safety protocols were initiated. They also expressed concerns over the amount of time it took to place the concerns.

“[Within] the next 24 hours, both police and school administration were notified by parents of students that were present when the confrontation occurred, expressing concern for the safety of the students that were present at the school auto shop. It should also be noted that many other students and adults were on school grounds for other extracurricular activities, and were not made aware of or notified of the confrontation or potential danger,” the police department press release stated.

Hundreds of current and past Auto students rallied together at the school board meeting on Mon. Oct. 1, in support of their teacher. Mr. Dennis Brannock, Automotive Technology, started the auto class in 1973 and has been a staff member for 45 years. The students also made a Team Brannock T-shirt and Facebook page. On Thurs. Oct. 4, the students also protested on US Highway 41 in support.

“We are trying our hardest, going to all the board meetings to figure out what is going on and trying to help the situation and help get him back so he can teach us. There is a Facebook page  [that] you can go like. I think after all this smooths over, [the banquet we’re having for him will take place]. Whatever happens, either way, that is what will happen. I really think the school has blown this out of proportion. Yes, there was a gun, but our auto teacher handled it very well,” Middleton said.

The man that was on school grounds is a two-time convicted felon and was questioned about the incident. Additional interviews and a neighborhood canvas was conducted along with phone records and videotape evidence that were used to identify the individual according to the St. John Police Department.

“The collaborative priority of the St. John Police Department, the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lake Central School Corporation is, to ensure the safety of all students that attend our schools and all that were present on school property. Thankfully, this incident was defused by a student that confronted the offender with the unlawful nature of carrying a handgun onto school grounds and into the school, which caused the offender to think twice and remove what appeared to be a gun from his waist and place it into his vehicle. The initial thought process on the part of the offender to intentionally bring what appeared to be a handgun onto school property to confront a child that was driving recklessly, could have easily resulted in a physical confrontation, where someone could have been shot or killed,” the St. John Police Department stated.

Students claim a reason for the individual walking in easily is the weakened security within the Auto shop. In the old school building there was a fence that people entering needed to be buzzed in through. The School Board is looking into adding nuisance alarms that go off when the door is open.

Since Mr. Brannock has been gone for almost two weeks, there has been substitute teachers in the classroom.
It’s completely different [without him]. It’s not the same. We do not have a guy that we’ve had every day with us in there. I’m sorry, but we’ve been sitting here with a sub for almost two weeks now and we haven’t learned a single thing. That’s why we come here, because Mr. Brannock is such a good teacher that we want to learn from him. He has been here for so long and affected so many people that him being gone is almost devastating to all of us,” Raymond Harris (11) said.

The investigation is ongoing in the St. John Police Department.

Request for interviews with building and district administration received no response at the time of publishing. Updates may be made as we receive more information.