Man with BB gun near school bus raises alarms

Some parents are concerned that the district didn’t communicate more widely with families.

A man walking along a North Whidbey road with a BB gun June 7 inadvertently alarmed passengers on a school bus, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Yet while deputies and school officials decided that it was an unfortunate but ultimately innocuous event, some parents are concerned that “nothing was done” and that the district didn’t communicate more widely with families, according to parents who contacted the News-Times.

According to a deputy’s report on the incident, an adult ride-along passenger on a bus with children from Crescent Harbor Elementary School reported seeing a middle aged man carrying what appeared to be a shotgun walking behind a child at a bus stop.

While an officer was interviewing children about what they saw, law enforcement received a report that a man was threatening to kill people at a home just a few miles from where the alleged shotgun-wielder was seen. The suspect matched the description of the man seen walking with the gun, the report states.

As a result, deputies, detectives and troopers with the Washington State Patrol staged at a North Whidbey location and developed a tactical plan for responding. It turned out, however, that the man was not the person near the bus, the report states.

Deputies returned to the area and were preparing to canvas the neighborhood when one of them noticed a man who matched the description of the person with the shotgun.

The man explained to deputies that he owns a marina in the area and often walks between his home and the marina. Sometimes he carries a BB gun back and forth, he said, because he uses it to shoo seals and otters off the docks. It was a double-barreled BB gun that could easily be confused for a shotgun, the deputy wrote.

The man was apologetic.

“He realized how ominous that might appear to someone who wasn’t familiar with the daily activities in the area,” the deputy wrote.

Deputies warned the man about how potentially dangerous his actions were and closed the case.

Stories about the incident circulated on social media afterward and parents raised concerns. A woman who contacted the News-Times questioned why it was “OK” for a man to approach a school bus with a realistic-looking replica of a shotgun. She also questioned why “a simple letter addressing the incident” wasn’t sent to parents.

Karst Brandsma, interim superintendent, wrote in an email that parents of students on the bus were notified of the details about he made a decision not to communicate the incident further after police investigated, identified the man and closed the case without an arrest.