Durham County

Northern High student faces 365-day suspension for having guns on campus

Lewis Blane Latta
Lewis Blane Latta The Herald-Sun

A Northern High School student arrested Monday and charged with having firearms on educational property is facing a 365-day suspension under state law and school board policy.

Under state law, school districts are required to hand down a 365-day suspension to “any student who is determined to have brought or been in possession of a firearm or destructive device on educational property, or to a school-sponsored event off of educational property.”

Lewis Blane Latta, 18, of 2725 Beck Road in Durham, was also charged with possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a Schedule III controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff spokeswoman Tamara Gibbs said one rifle, two handguns and a controlled substance were seized from a teenager’s automobile in a North High School student parking lot without incident.

The rifle was an SKS Semi-Automatic Rifle with a synthetic stock. SKS rifles are military grade semi-automatic carbines originally produced by the Soviet Union and a gun stock is the butt of a firearm which rests against the shooter’s shoulder.

One of the handguns seized was a Smith & Wesson M&P pistol. The third recovered gun was a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber black handgun valued at $429 with a serial number matching indicating it was the stolen property of a male residing in the 6900 block of Windover Drive.

As for the drugs, deputies seized four 250-milligram vials of the controlled substance Testosterone Propionate along with “more than” 10 needles used to inject liquid steroids.

Latta was was being held in the Durham County jail but was released on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 8.

During the application process for his request for a court-appointed lawyer, Latta indicated he is currently employed by Bojangles on Roxboro Road with an income of $200 per month.

DPS Spokesman Chip Sudderth said the arrest came as a result of a request by Northern Principal Dan Gilfort for a random search of student vehicles in the school’s parking lot.

“DPS principals can request a random search of student vehicles with a canine unit if they have a suspicion of drug usage, and this is what happened at Northern,” Sudderth said.

Sudderth stressed that the search was random and the fact that Latta was arrested as a result of the search does not mean he was a target of the action.

In a statement, Superintendent Bert L’Homme said the school district will do whatever is necessary to protect students.

“We have no information that there was an active threat to anyone at Northern, but we will not tolerate the presence of a weapon or drugs at one of our schools.” L’Homme said. “We will do whatever it takes to protect all of our students and ensure that our schools are safe.”

DPS reported two firearm possession incidents during the 2015-16 school year as part of the N.C. Consolidated Data Report.

The report for the current school year has not yet been released.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645