An 18-year-old Cortland High School student was charged with a felony Thursday after a routine check of the school’s parking lot found guns in his car — a simple oversight, but coming just a week after someone else was charged with making terroristic threats about the school.
Jack D. Mertz, 18, of O’Shea Road in Homer, was arrested around noon Thursday and charged with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, a felony.
Cortland police Lt. David Guerrera said faculty members were doing a routine check of the parking lot when someone saw a long gun in the back seat of a car. After running the license plates, officials determined the car belonged to Mertz, and a further search of the car turned up two more long guns.
The three guns — a 12-gauge shotgun, a 30-06-caliber rifle and .243-caliber rifle — were hunting-style guns, Guerrera said, not assault weapons.
Mertz told police he was leaving his father’s home and supposed to drop the guns off at his mother’s before school but was pressed for time, so he parked the car and went into the school, Guerrera said.
“There was no threat,” Guerrera said. “It was an act of negligence.”
Cortland district Superintendent Mike Hoose released a voice message across the district shortly after the incident, telling listeners that the school was not on lockdown and no threat had been made.
Mertz was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Cortland City Court and released. He is scheduled to appear April 4 in City Court.
The incident follows almost a week after a threat was made toward the high school. Jensen P. Schack, 19, was charged with making a terroristic threat following a social media post about the school. Cortland and Chenango county sheriff’s officers, along with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team, executed a search warrant at Schack’s Plymouth home and seized an AR-style semiautomatic rifle with ammunition.
Police began investigating the threat on the afternoon of March 2 after a report of a subject had posted photos and video of a threat directed toward the Cortland High School, from his Snapchat account, police said. The investigation led members of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office to Schack’s residence.
Photos on Snapchat include a man, not Schack, holding an AR-style rifle with the caption “Cortland highschool watch out.” Another photo showed an AR-style rifle with the caption, “wanna come take my guns? you better bring yours.”
Students across the country have been on edge since the nation’s most recent school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, where 14 students and three faculty were killed. The shooting has since sparked calls for gun control and plans for student walkouts on March 14.
Since the Feb. 14 shooting, state police in Troop C, which covers seven counties including Cortland, have investigated nine incidents of terroristic threats against a school and made four arrests, state police said. Similar arrests were made Feb. 16 in Auburn, Monday in Oswego and Thursday in Port Byron.