By Deborah Quinn Hensel
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Three children were injured on Tuesday at a Houston elementary school when a gun fell out of a 6-year-old's pocket and went off in the cafeteria, Houston Independent School District officials said.
Sam Sarabia, chief elementary school officer, said the incident happened at 10:35 a.m. local time as two classes of 42 kindergarten students were being seated at Betsy Ross Elementary School. The handgun fell out as the boy was sitting, and a bullet grazed his leg, Sarabia said.
Sarabia said it was still unknown whether the other two children, a boy, 6, and a girl, 5, were hit by shrapnel or other debris. All three children were transported to a hospital with minor injuries, and the school, which has 471 students, was put on lockdown immediately, Sarabia said.
Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties said that that an investigation is under way but that no information was available about the weapon or any possible charges.
Kerry Brown, a father who came to the school to pick up his daughter, Kaylah, 8, said that his son, Khoran, 6, was one of the boys injured, but not the one who brought the gun to school.
"I'm very disappointed and hurt," Brown said. "This is supposed to be an institution of learning and parents need to take better control of their kids."
It was not clear Tuesday afternoon how the other boy got the gun, what type it was, or why he had it at school. A number of parents and grandparents who heard the news came to sign their children out of school early. Family members had to navigate around police cars and news trucks to get to the school.
"I was so scared, I was crying," said Lacy Becerril, who said her son Carlos Becerril, 6, was in the cafeteria during the shooting. "He's a little shaken up, but he told me, 'Mommy, I'm OK.' "
Becerril said she intends to send her son to school on Wednesday, but will accompany him inside. She said school officials told her they are putting additional security measures in place but that she wants to see them for herself.
"Every school should have a metal detector, just for this very reason," she said.
Sarabia said that school administrators and police were meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss additional security measures and that at least a dozen crisis intervention counselors were on hand on Tuesday and would be back on Wednesday. He also said that local ministers would be asked to speak to parents in the community about gun safety and responsibility, as well as urging them to be aware of what their children are taking to school.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)