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Junior high burglary suspect linked to a stolen handgun found at Turlock school, police say | Update

In a message to the public, the Turlock Unified School District said the gun was not loaded and the backpack did not belong to a Walnut Elementary School student.

TURLOCK, Calif. — A juvenile has been arrested by officers with the Turlock Police Department after allegedly being found breaking into Turlock Junior High School Friday morning. Officials believe the burglary case is linked to the discovery of an unloaded handgun inside a backpack at Turlock's Walnut Elementary School hours later.

Around 3:36 a.m. Friday, officers say they were called to Turlock Junior High School following a burglary alarm. After arriving, officers allegedly found a juvenile in the school's office and took him into custody on suspicion of felony burglary.

Hours later, at 7:07 a.m., officers were called to Walnut Elementary School, just two blocks away from Turlock Junior High, where a custodian had found a purse-style backpack containing an unloaded handgun and other personal items, police say. 

Security camera video obtained by officers reportedly showed the juvenile carrying that purse-style backpack that contained the gun. 

Officers say the gun is believed to have been recently stolen from a nearby home. 

“The safety of our children is paramount for our officers. They left no stone unturned to quickly come to a resolution," said Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden in a statement. "It appears the gun found on the school grounds was fruits of an earlier burglary and had nothing to do with school nor does it appear the suspect had any intent to use it at the school.”

Officers with the Turlock Police Department removed the backpack before school started.

For some parents, the early-morning call from school district officials informing them about the situation was concerning and led to criticism over the district's decision to continue classes for the day. 

"I don't think the kids should have been at school today, ultimately. I mean, I think there was a lot of risks involved in this situation," said Turlock parent Greg Schmidt. 

Schmidt received the call after his two sons were dropped off at Walnut Elementary School for what is scheduled to be their last day of classes before summer. 

"I just would like the district specifically to try to review these policies, and whether it's the district or the state that puts these policies in place, but as a group, I think they should be reviewed," Schmidt said.

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The discovery comes during a frightening week for families, teachers and students in Northern California and throughout the country. 

On Tuesday, a gunman in Uvalde, Texas opened fire at Robb Elementary School killing 19 students and two adults.

Also Tuesday, officials with the Sacramento City Unified School District said that a gun and loaded magazine were found in the desk of a second-grade student at Sacramento's Edward Kemble Elementary School.

Threats were also made this week aimed at schools in Elk Grove, Roseville, Valley Springs and Woodland.

Schmidt says he believes classes at the school should have been canceled for Friday, scheduled to be the school's last day open before summer.

"To find the gun on campus prior to school starting and to make the decision to move forward with school, I think was irresponsible," Schmidt said. "I just would like the district specifically to try to review these policies."

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