A boom interrupted history class and sent sixth-graders screaming and scrambling for the door. DAngelo Marte tried to run, too, but his left leg wouldnt budge, rendered useless by a .380-caliber bullet that tore through his knee while he sat at his desk.
As he limped to the front of the classroom, police say an 11-year-old student fled with a loaded gun and water bottle filled with alcohol in his book bag. Another removed his blue Redland Middle School uniform shirt, which a third classmate applied to the wound to stop blood from pooling onto DAngelos Nike Air Force sneakers.
At first, I thought I was dreaming, DAngelo, now 13 and recovered from the May 24 shooting, said in an interview. I didnt think Id ever get shot.
While jarring, the chaotic scene in Room M211 is the exception, not the rule. School shootings remain uncommon, and local schools officials insist the campus is the safest place for any student.
But the incident followed one week later by the discovery of a special needs fifth-grader with a loaded Smith & Wesson at a K-8 center in Doral brought a close to a South Florida school year marred by the fatal November shooting of a 13-year-old girl aboard a private school bus in South Dade. It raised questions about local gun prevention measures and added to calls for increased campus security heard around the nation in the wake of a gunmans rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
One gun is too many, said Cindy Eveld, DAngelos grandmother and guardian. They need to do something more.
But how much of a threat do guns really pose to South Florida schools?
For three months, the Miami Herald collected and reviewed for the first time hundreds of police reports compiled by the school districts police departments that documented the presence and investigation of guns over the past four years, beginning with the 2009 school year. Among the findings:
• In all, more than 70 firearms were confiscated by police from inside Miami-Dade and Broward schools, on campuses and in school safe zones during school hours or functions. Close to two dozen weapons were snared in Broward; the rest in Miami-Dade, including three that police say were quietly intercepted during the first week of the current school year. Most were brought by students.
• A majority of the 600-plus schools in Miami-Dade and Broward reported no problems at all with firearms either during or after school hours. In Miami-Dade, which also responded to 33 gun incidents that didnt result in confiscations, only one in four schools reported a weapons incident to police.
• Two dozen guns, about 40 percent of the guns found in Miami-Dade, were reported at two middle schools Charles R. Drew and Carol City and four high schools Miami Carol City, Miami Central, Miami Northwestern and Norland. These six schools were the only in the county to have at least four incidents in which authorities took firearms into custody. But none experienced a school-related shooting.