HERRIN — Dan Snow said he’s having to rethink safety at his Snow Power gymnastics business after an incident Friday involving a patron and a fake gun.
According to a news release from Herrin Police Department, officers responded to a complaint at about 10 p.m. Friday that 12-year-old girl had threatened several other juveniles at a Herrin business with a fake gun — Snow said that businesses was his — Snow Power gym.
He was shocked when he learned what happened Friday. Snow said it’s not uncommon on Fridays to have family members come by to speak with people at his studio, and that’s exactly what happened. Snow said a young woman came to ask if she could talk to her cousin. Snow recognized her and let her come in.
Snow said he later saw a group of children gathered together across the gym. When he walked over to see what the hubbub was about, the girl he let in said she just wanted to talk to her cousin and asked if they could talk in the bathroom — he said OK.
When it came time to close for the night, Snow said he didn’t see the suspect.
“She just left. She was gone. She was here maybe 10 minutes,” Snow said. He didn’t think much more of it until he said he saw posts on social media.
“I didn’t hear about any gun or anything until Facebook Saturday,” he said.
Mother Nicole Lacy, of Herrin said her 13-year-old daughter was there and was one of the girls the suspect was allegedly there to see.
Lacy said the suspect “had problems with several little girls there.” Lacy said her daughter remembered the suspect getting one child so worked up, she was crying and “huddled behind her little friend.”
Lacy said the children saw the fake gun when they came out of the bathroom.
“When she exited she (the suspect) had pulled her shirt up to reveal the butt and trigger of the gun,” Lacy said of her daughter’s story.
Lacy said this is when children went to tell workers, who then went to tell Snow.
“The little girl did a back flip and exited,” she said of the suspect.
The news release from police said after investigating, police learned the suspect lived in West Frankfort and with the help of the West Frankfort Police Department, she was located. The release said West Frankfort Police retrieved the fake handgun.
The release said it was later discovered that the suspect had made posts on social media related to the incident — the release said it was revealed that there was an ongoing dispute between the juveniles involved.
Police said the incident remains under investigation and will be forwarded to the Williamson County State's Attorney's Office.
“I was completely caught off guard,” Snow said after learning what had allegedly happened Friday. He said he had to call the police to fill in some gaps, though he said they wouldn’t give names.
Snow said they do allow Nerf guns on the premises — but that’s the only type of weapon allowed in the facility. He said his studio is designed in part to give kids an alternative to the hard things life can throw at them. Now, he said he is thinking about how to change his business.
“Twenty years ago I would have never dreamed it would have been here,” he said of the threat of gun violence.
It’s not even a matter of anonymity, either. Snow said he said he knows about “99 percent” of the people who come into the gym, and even the suspect from the incident Friday was familiar to him and his staff.
Snow said he has reached out to police officers and some former school administrators about ways he can try to prevent this kind of thing in the future. But, he said the people he has talked to said there is very little that can actually be done short of patting down every person who comes into his business, which isn’t the most practical approach.
“You have to adapt to the times,” he said of trying to find some way to make things a bit safer.
Lacy said it's a problem that a child decided to bring a fake gun — real or not, that doesn’t matter, she said — to scare and threaten other children.
Looking to last week’s most recent mass school shooting in Florida, Lacy asked the question many are asking right now: What are we going to do about it?
“What we have do is when we start seeing a trend, we have to nip it in the bud,” Lacy said, adding that the signs of violence should be treated seriously.
Lacy said some on social media have written off the incident because the gun was found to be fake.
If it were a real gun, “she could have taken my girls life,” she said.
Lacy said it is the job of adults and parents to keep kids safe and make them feel safe — she said her daughter has been scared all weekend, never leaving her side. She is even terrified, Lacy said, to go to school.
“There should be no reason this is the world my kid has to live in,” Lacy said. “They should not have to worry about whether or not they are going to come home from school at night.”
The people involved in the incident are not being identified because they are juveniles.