Rowan deputy disarms student who wielded butcher knife

A mask-wearing student waved a butcher knife in the air in a Rowan County middle school cafeteria Tuesday morning, sending teens screaming into the hallway before the boy was disarmed by a sheriff’s deputy, authorities say.

No injuries were reported in the incident, which happened shortly before 8 a.m. at West Rowan Middle School.

Deputy Danny Lindley, who is assigned to the school as its resource officer, was able to calmly move close enough to the student and knock the knife away, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities said Lindley had just arrived at the school for the day and was talking with an assistant principal near the cafeteria when he saw students begin screaming and running out of the cafeteria and into the hallway. Lindley ran into the cafeteria and said he saw a male student waving a 12-inch butcher knife “wildly in the air.”

The student, later found to be a 14-year-old, was wearing a rubber clown mask that fully covered his head, authorities said.

Lindley said he ordered the student to drop the knife, but the youth kept waving it with his right hand. Over the next minute or two, Lindley and others said, the officer slowly edged closer to the student, ordering him to drop the knife. At the same time, authorities said, the deputy put his hand on the baton in his belt.

The student finally lowered the knife but continued holding it at his side, authorities said. When Lindley got close enough, he pulled his baton and struck the student’s right forearm three times, knocking the knife loose.

The student was handcuffed, and investigators said they found another 10-inch butcher knife in the student’s backpack.

Another deputy, Mike Dixon, happened to be at West Rowan Middle School to deliver ballots, as the school is a polling place. Dixon and school staff members made sure students were safely in their rooms.

Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said the youth’s family was called to the school, and authorities decided the boy should be evaluated by mental health personnel, “due to some of the statements he made to Deputy Lindley and school staff.”

Sifford said the student is being evaluated by mental health officials and will have X-rays to check for injury to his right arm.

“Deputy Lindley’s quick response and skillful handling of this potentially tragic situation is to be commended,” Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said. “I hope that the student will be able to receive the type of care that he needs to help him recover.”

West Rowan Middle Principal Nancy Barkemeyer said, “District Operational Procedures and the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Code of Conduct are being followed when handling incidents of this nature.”

By those rules, the student could face long-term disciplinary action from the school system.