A call to 911 Tuesday morning led to the search for a gun-wielding man in North Newton, one that was tense yet ended in the best possible way for everyone involved.
At about 8:30 911 dispatchers paged North Newton Police to respond to the Sand Creek Trail entrance located just north of the science building on the campus of Bethel College. Callers had identified a man carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.
"It was tense," said Randy Jordan, chief of police for North Newton. " ... We had people not only calling 911 but as we were gearing up to go out there, I had people coming to city hall who were in tears, they were so scared. It alarmed a lot of people. ... It is not illegal, really, to be walking around with a gun. But the thing is, it sends up red flags to a lot of people. It is unfortunate, but people are scared."
North Newton police, a Harvey County Sheriff's deputy and a member of the Newton Police Department all responded and began searching for the man in the area of the Sand Creek Trail. The search lasted about an hour.
The man turned out to be a juvenile from North Newton who was later seen entering his home. The juvenile and his mother voluntarily went to the North Newton Police Department offices in North Newton City Hall when they learned of the search. At the time of this report, officers were talking about the incident with the juvenile and his parent.
"There were people who were truly panicked," Jordan said. "They believed he had an assault rifle. ... As officers were walking the trail, we were all saying 'please God, don't put me in a situation where I may have to shoot.'"
The juvenile, whose name is not being released, told walkers along the trail he was searching for a 7-foot tall, 500-pound creature he had seen along the trail. Callers to 911 told dispatchers and officers while they thought what he was carrying could be a BB gun, it was a very realistic looking and looked like an assault rifle.
"From a distance, we would not have known, had he turned it on us or accidentally pointed it at us," Jordan said. "... We would not have known if it was a BB gun. It was a pretty dangerous situation for a lot of us."
The juvenile, dressed in all black, had been sighted earlier in the day near Kauffman Museum, which is also on the trail system in North Newton that goes past the Bethel College football stadium, MCC Central States and the Bethel College Community Gardens and through a portion of the college campus.
At the time of this report, officers have not recovered the weapon being carried during the search.