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Sale of 'ghost gun' with fake money led to Cesar Chavez High School student shooting

A crowd of students prepare to leave Cesar Chavez Park, located near Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen on Nov. 29, 2021.

A 16-year-old student at Cesar Chavez High School is in serious condition after being shot by a 15-year-old student during the sale of a "ghost gun."

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Monday, Phoenix police received a call that the unidentified teen had been shot in the high school boy's bathroom, according to Phoenix Police Department spokesperson Ann Justus during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators discovered that a 16-year-old had brought a gun to school with the intent of selling it to the 15-year-old student.

"A sum of money was exchanged, the gun was given to the 15-year-old," according to Justus. "The 16-year-old soon realized the money he had received from that gun was not real money."

Instead, it was "money that is used in the making of motion pictures," Justus said.

The older boy confronted the 15-year-old over the money and then the 15-year-old boy shot the 16-year-old boy, police said.

According to police, there were witnesses in the restroom at the time of the shooting.

Deal involved untraceable firearm known as 'ghost gun'

Phoenix police say that the gun sold to the teen was "a poly-type gun, often referred to as a ghost gun," according to Justus. "People can build them, they can order parts off the internet."

More: Unregistered, untraceable ghost guns leave police investigations in the dark, report finds

The school doesn't have any metal detectors so it is unknown to officials how the weapon was brought onto school property. Cesar Chavez also does not have a school resource officer on campus, Justus said. Last year, following student-led protests and petitions during nationwide calls for police reform, Phoenix Union announced officers would no longer be assigned to its schools.

Police and detectives are talking to those involved about the weapon and what its ultimate purpose was.

"Anytime juveniles are attempting to obtain, possess or sell weapons, that is something we need to look into," Justus said.

Background investigations and interviews conducted by Phoenix Police helped them locate the 15-year-old at a home near Cesar Chavez High School, where Phoenix police believe the teen was staying. He was arrested at the home with no issues.

The 15-year-old suspect was booked into Juvenile Court Center where he faces various charges including endangerment, aggravated assault, and weapons violations relating to bringing a weapon on campus.

The 16-year-old was still in serious condition but is expected to recover. If he is charged, it will be after he is discharged from the hospital.

No other students were injured and those that remained on campus after the shooting were directed to Cesar Chavez Park to meet their parents, according to the Phoenix Union High School District.

Read more: 1 teen shot in fight at Cesar Chavez High School

Phoenix Union doesn't plan to reinstate officers in schools

In a Tuesday news conference, Phoenix Union Superintendent Chad Gestson said the district is not reconsidering hiring resource officers to increase security in schools following the Monday shooting.

"This one incident will not make us rethink where we stand today with school resource officers," said Gestson. "To have highly safe campuses... law enforcement is a small part of that."

In the same way, Geston said the district does not plan to implement metal detectors in schools.

"It is the other safety procedures and protocols that will help keep our 32,000 staff and students safe" across the district, he said.

According to Gestson, one school resource officer guarded the 50 acres that comprise Cesar Chavez High School back when Phoenix Union had an SRO model.

"To think that a school resource officer would've been exactly at that place at that time to prevent, I think it's not accurate," Gestson said.

Currently, large campuses in the district have security teams of 10 to 12 employees that watch cameras and patrol the school facilities, Gestson said. According to Gestson, one of the functions of these teams is to build relationships with students, since according to Gestson this would help them stay on top of issues that concern students.

"We are a system of schools. We're not an airport, we're not a prison. We expect safety on our campuses, but we do not want to contradict the promise that we made to our community," he said.

Geston said the school had additional security on Tuesday, with officers present on campus and no backpacks allowed for the day, as a response to fear and uncertainty in the community.

"We did have a couple of officers on campus today, but the real presence that we saw were extra personnel from around Phoenix Union: extra counselors, extra social workers, just to make sure that when everybody came back to school today it felt normal," he said.

Gestson said the district will go back to typical safety procedures in the next few days.

The shooting involved a "ghost gun," an unregulated firearm that can be put together at home after purchasing its pieces online. According to Gestson, the Monday confrontation was the first time the district has dealt with a weapon-related incident.

Gestson said weapons are an issue for youth today and that he expects to work closely with local law enforcement to provide prevent an increased presence of firearms in schools.

"Schools didn't create this issue. Unfortunately, we're charged with the task of trying to navigate this issue but can't do this alone. This is a partnership with the community, our city law enforcement and of course safety procedures," he said.

Gestson said that firearms in schools are strictly prohibited with few exceptions and that the students involved will likely be expelled to comply with state statutes.

"In Phoenix Union, firearms and violence have no place," said. "Not at Cesar Chavez, not at any of our schools."

School taking more safety measures after shooting

The school will previously said that on Tuesday it would follow the regular schedule with increased safety and support:

  • Extra safety personnel, including law enforcement

  • Entry and exit points on campus limited

  • Backpacks not allowed

  • Food deliveries not allowed

  • Extra safety measures near restrooms, during passing periods, at lunchtime, during arrival, dismissal and afterschool activities

  • Additional counselors and support staff available on site

Reach breaking news reporter Steven Hernandez at steven.hernandez@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter @The_HdzCo. Reach breaking news reporter MacKenzie Brower at mackenzie.brower@arizonarepublic.com or on Instagram @_photomac_.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Cesar Chavez HS student shooting was over 'ghost gun' sale, fake money