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The Daily Tar Heel

Armed Bondsmen at School Raise Safety Questions

But last Thursday, in Orange County, there was a case of not students bringing weapons to school, but several adults.

Armed bail bondsmen entered Efland-Cheeks Elementary School property, located at 4401 Fuller Road in Efland, on Thursday morning while fifth-graders were outside during recess.

Two bondsmen, Gerald Haskins, 47, and Derrick Hester, 46, both from Durham, each were charged with felony possession of a weapon on school property. They will have a probable cause screening on April 26.

Their actions could result in the suspension or revocation of their licenses by the N.C. Department of Insurance, the group that oversees bail bondsmen.

"We license them, we conduct interviews, we do background checks," said Chrissy Pearson, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Insurance. "We understand this was a frightening situation for the school.

"We also understand that those who were charged are entitled to due process and we can't make a statement until they are found guilty or innocent."

But Pearson said if a bail bondsman is convicted of a felony, his or her license would be revoked by the N.C. Department of Insurance. In the case of a misdemeanor, the case would be reviewed by the department, she said.

"We are conducting an investigation ourselves," she said.

The bail bondsmen were chasing Lakendris McAdoo, 19, a suspect who failed to make a court appearance and has warrants out for his arrest, officials said.

When bail bondsmen sign a suspect out of jail, they take custody of the defendant. The bondsmen are then in charge of ensuring that their defendant attends court hearings. If that individual fails to show up, the bondsmen have to pay the bond.

A bail bondsmen has the right to arrest and jail the defendant at any time. But while bondsmen have the right to use "reasonable force," they don't have the broad power like a law enforcement officer has.

Pearson said a law officer can enter school property with a weapon, but a bail bondsman cannot because bondsmen are bound to the same laws as other residents.

Principal Rebecca Horne said McAdoo was a former student of Efland-Cheeks Elementary. "So he was familiar with the building," she said.

But she said the suspect did not put any students lives in danger, running in and quickly out of the building.

"The cafeteria staff saw him, but they were the only ones that did," Horne said. "Three bail bondsmen jumped out of cars armed with weapons. The bail bondsmen went through the group of students on the playground."

Once the staff knew there was a problem, they went into a lockdown procedure, Horne said.

"A lockdown is the opposite of a fire drill."

Whereas a fire drill gets all the kids out of the building, the point of a lockdown is to get all the kids in, lock the doors and stay put, she said.

Horne also said the students had to stay in classrooms for about two hours while deputies searched the building.

"In many of our classrooms there are rest rooms," Horne said. But for the ones that do not have rest rooms, students had to be escorted to the bathroom once safety was ensured, she said.

"This was my worst nightmare," Horne said. "The idea of an adult bringing a gun on school property is scary. It is so dangerous."

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But Horne said she does not think the school can do anything to prevent something like this from happening again.

"We can review how we handled the situation," Horne said. "But I can't say we could have done anything differently."

The school sent a letter home to parents explaining what happened.

"Most parents have been very supportive," Horne said, aside from a few complaints that the school should have called all parents.

"It was a very scary situation. The kids did a good job."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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