One round was loaded in the chamber and four more were in the tube of a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun that children at a city summer camp found hidden while playing outside at Santa Rosa’s Lincoln Elementary School, police detectives said Thursday.
Stashed inside metal grating at the base of a modular building at the school on West Ninth Street, the slender but heavy weapon had many of the characteristics of what detectives call a “hood gun” — a weapon stashed outside by gang members to keep at the ready for future confrontations.
“There’s no direct evidence to say that,” Santa Rosa Police Sgt. John Cregan said. “But experience tells us that’s exactly what it is.”
But who placed the gun on school grounds in close proximity to at least 100 children who play there each day, in addition to the neighbors who use adjacent Jacobs Park, remained unknown Thursday, police said.
The children found the shotgun while searching for marbles, police said.
With a sawed-off barrel, the shotgun is easier to conceal and rounds fired from a shorter barrel may spread out farther, potentially hitting more targets.
Detectives still were investigating whether any fingerprints or DNA possibly found on the weapon and its ammunition may lead to a suspect, although both the children and camp staff also touched the weapon, Cregan said. Police also were looking into the weapon’s serial number to track the gun’s ownership.
Although police know that “hood guns” are hidden in areas where gang members live and congregate, it’s fairly rare to find one, Cregan said.
“Usually they’re more well hidden,” he said. “They don’t want this to happen. That’s a valuable item to them.”
Gang members will stash guns, knives, bats and other weapons in bushes, on rooftops and even bury them under 4 or 5 inches of dirt. The goal is to keep weapons at the ready but still hidden from police. Taken during burglaries or purchased on the street, the weapons can quickly change hands, Cregan said.