Police suspect gang involvement for 18-year-old
Blair student Edith Hernandez-Mendez, 18, was arrested around 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 18 under charges of allegedly possessing a handgun, according to the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD). She was apprehended on property owned by St. Bernadette's Catholic Church and School, located across the street from Blair at 80 University Blvd East. Police believe that her possession of the handgun was gang-related.
Hernandez-Mendez was then taken to the Montgomery County Detention Center and held under $5,000 personal bond, which has been paid. She has been charged with one count of possession of a firearm as a minor and one count of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun as a minor. In the state of Maryland, a person must be at least 21 years old to possess any firearms. She is currently waiting to be picked up by immigration officers, as it is unclear whether or not she is legally documented in the U.S., according to MCPD.
In addition to Hernandez-Mendez, seven others were involved in the incident, according to MCPD. Police notified Principal Darryl Williams that the other seven were not students, he said. The following day, Sept. 19, Blair was told that one of the members, Hernandez-Mendez, was a student. MCPD had to identify her during a preliminary investigation before notifying the school, according to Williams. The school then sent out automated calls informing students of the incident.
For now, the Blair administration is waiting before making any decisions for Hernandez-Mendez regarding the incident. "We're waiting to see what happens with the outcome," Williams said. If the allegations made against Hernandez-Mendez are true, she will have violated Montgomery County Public School policy on firearm possession, which would result in expulsion, according to Montgomery County regulation COE-RA.
Williams suggested that if Hernandez-Mendez is cleared of police charges, Blair would have to write a formal recommendation regarding her potential return to school. "The school says that a student has rights and responsibilities, and at the same time we need to make sure all students and staff are safe," Williams said. He remarked that Hernandez-Mendez will probably not be returning to Blair.
Williams talked to Hernandez-Mendez's teachers on Monday during a morning staff meeting to ask if she exhibited any red flags. "There was nothing out of the ordinary, no previous situations," he said.
In order to reduce potential gang violence in the future, Williams stressed the importance of building strong relationships between students and adults. "One way of lessening this is that when students know of a conflict, they share it with an adult. A lot of situations are out in communications," he said.
Williams has also talked to some of Hernandez-Mendez's family members about the situation. "We'll continue to work with the student and her family," Williams said. "It's kind of an odd situation, and we responded the best way we can."
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