For the week of April 28, 1999  thru May 4, 1999  

Wood River High School student arrested for aggravated assault with a gun

Timing of arrest sparked concern

Express Staff Writer

A Wood River High School student was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly pointing a gun at a 15-year-old girl and making threats.

The timing of the arrest, one day after the student massacre in Littleton, Colo., the location of the arrest and speculation about gang activity at Wood River High School provoked considerable concern among some local residents.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling held a press conference Monday in order, he said, "to get the facts out in a responsible manner, stop rumors, and calm everyone down, and to make sure the rights of everyone are protected."

According to Femling, Jonathon Wilkins, an 18-year-old Hailey resident and a high school senior, was charged with felony aggravated assault.

The charge stemmed from a March 24 incident at the Weyyakin subdivision where, according to Femling, Wilkins loaded a clip of ammunition into a handgun before pointing it at the victim.

Femling said police have not obtained the gun allegedly involved in the incident.

Femling said the alleged assault took place at the house of a friend of the victim. He said Wilkins arrived at the house in a car accompanied by four other youths.

Asked about a motive for the alleged assault, Femling said that his department is continuing to investigate and that he did not want to speculate.

The sheriff’s department began its investigation March 25 after being contacted by the victim’s parents. After interviews of several witnesses, Femling said, the initial investigation concluded April 15 and a warrant for Wilkins’ arrest was issued April 21.

Femling said Wilkins was arrested without incident at the Wood River High School principal’s office that day.

The Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office requested that bond for Wilkins be set at $50,000. However, during Wilkins’ arraignment Thursday before Magistrate Judge Robert J. Elgee, the bond was dropped to $5,000 and Wilkins was released.

A date has not been set for a preliminary hearing. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

A KECH radio story last Friday reported that Femling had called the group that accompanied Wilkins to the house a "gang."

Asked about his statements last week about the alleged gang, Femling said he was staying with the facts of the incident and that he would not comment on gang activity.

However, he said his department is working with school officials to review plans that deal with such activity.

Femling said his office has been contacted daily by people expressing concerns about the incident in light of what happened in Colorado.

"People need to trust that school officials and police are doing their jobs," Femling said. "I would classify the Wood River Valley as one of the safest communities around. I believe that our schools are safe. Our focus is to keep it that way."

However, Femling added that citizens and police can’t become too complacent when it comes to alleged gang activity and can always improve safety by getting more people in the community involved.

When asked in an interview if any students at Wood River High School carry guns, Robert Payne, a social worker there, said that to his knowledge, there are no guns in the school and that the schools are absolutely safe. Payne would not comment on whether or not there are gangs at the school.

"We pay real close attention to this sort of thing and watch what’s going on with the kids," Payne said. "We talk to them and they talk to us."

When asked about possible gang activity at Wood River High, principal Bill Resko acknowledged the possibility of gang activity in the Wood River Valley, but said, "We don’t have gang activity here at the high school."

The school resource officer and Hailey police have been investigating the situation and have worked to keep it out of the schools, Resko said.


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