GONZALES — A man on criminal probation brandished a realistic-looking air pistol Tuesday morning outside East Ascension High School while students arrived for classes in what investigators believe was the man’s attempt to get back in jail, police said.
Gonzales police arrested Blaine Dearmond, 19, 18096 Little Prairie Road, St. Amant, and booked him into Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville on one count of terrorizing, police said in a news release.
Police Detective Sgt. Steven Nethken said in an interview Tuesday that Dearmond was pointing the weapon at students and manipulating its cocking device about 7 a.m. along South Irma Boulevard outside the school fence near the high school’s field house.
A public school system statement notifying parents Tuesday morning about the incident says three students walking to school on South Irma were approached by Dearmond. Police also said that in addition to several students who saw him with the gun, a high school faculty member reported seeing Dearmond with the air pistol.
Nethken said that at that time of the morning, students were walking to school along South Irma from parking spots up the street.
The area is also within walking distance of the city police station, City Hall and the parish Courthouse Annex, where the Sheriff’s Office has administrative offices.
After the responding school resource officer, a city juvenile officer, arrested Dearmond, he told police investigators that he was bringing the gun to his cousin at the school, police said.
Nethken said investigators determined that Dearmond’s story was bogus — no cousin attends the school — but instead believe Dearmond was trying to create a pretext to be arrested.
Dearmond, who is on probation in Ascension for burglary convictions, had recently been kicked out of his home after his father was arrested in an unrelated matter, police said.
The air pistol came from Dearmond’s father’s home, police said Dearmond told them.
Nethken said no bail had been set for Dearmond on Tuesday and the state Office of Probation and Parole put a hold on him for a suspected probation violation.
Johnnie Balfantz, Ascension public schools spokesman, said Tuesday the school was not placed under lockdown because the incident happened before classes started.
He said school officials notified parents about 9:30 a.m. with a prepared statement. It noted that the students who reported Dearmond’s behavior immediately did as they should have done, setting in motion protocols that led to the man’s arrest.
“We want to assure you that everything at school is safe and under control,” the statement says. “The safety and well-being of every student is our highest priority.”