A Houston school was evacuated amid a “perceived threat” and reports of a possible explosive device. More than 3,000 students at the Seven Lakes High School, in the Katy district, were evacuated to allow authorities to search the building. Although the students remained on school grounds, they were moved outside.
A thorough search of the building and grounds was conducted by bomb squads with the Harris County sheriff’s department and the FBI. Authorities eventually recovered a device described as a “zip gun.” According to a Katy district representative, the device was “altered to propel an object designed to cause harm.”
A zip gun is essentially a handmade or improvised firearm. Although they are often crude, they can be deadly. Improvised guns are often constructed to mask their identity as a weapon. However, the specific nature of the zip gun recovered from Seven Lakes High School is unknown.
Authorities on scene eventually identified the suspect, who is a student at the school. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Thomas Scott Barfield was arrested without incident. The 19-year-old remains incarcerated at the Fort Bend County Jail. He is facing several criminal charges, including possession of a prohibited weapon.
In addition to the zip gun, authorities also recovered a rifle from the trunk of Barfield’s vehicle.
Katy Independent School District spokesman Steve Stanford said zip guns “are illegal — especially on a school campus.” Students are also prohibited from storing guns inside their vehicles on school property.
CNN reports the building was cleared after the weapon was located. However, the Houston school remained evacuated for the remainder of the day. All students were eventually sent home and all extracurricular activities were cancelled.
Authorities have not discussed why Barfield brought the weapons to school or whether he intended to use them. School administrators said they received a tip about a “security threat” but did not provide further details.
Although Barfield’s intentions are unknown, the Houston school evacuation may have saved lives.