When a kindergartner opened his backpack at his Florida elementary school this spring, he found an unfamiliar black case he had not placed inside the bag.
Upon opening it, the boy discovered a loaded silver handgun, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office affidavit.
By the time the student’s mother, Ariana Carroll, arrived at Taylor Ranch Elementary School in Venice, Fla., later that day, police were waiting with questions. Carroll told them she knew who had put the weapon inside the backpack.
The 26-year-old mother had placed the case and loaded handgun in her son’s backpack while cleaning out her car the night before, she told police, but then forgot to remove it before he went to school.
Now, Carroll faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge for allegedly failing to store the weapon in a secured locked box, allowing a minor access to the firearm, court records state. She is also facing a second charge for missing an October court appearance.
Carroll did not respond to a message from The Washington Post late Thursday. It is unclear whether she has retained an attorney. As of Thursday, police said Carroll had not been taken into custody.
The school’s principal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident is at least the second recent case of a Florida child finding a loaded weapon in a backpack. Earlier this week, a Florida father was arrested after his son fatally shot his mother during a Zoom call with her co-workers. Prosecutors said the toddler found the gun inside a “Paw Patrol” backpack at the family’s home in Altamonte Springs.
The case in Venice happened on May 4. The student alerted his teacher, who handed the gun to an officer stationed at the school. The officer unloaded the weapon and reported the incident to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
When police interviewed Carroll at the school later that afternoon, she told them she had taken the case with the gun out of her car the night before, along with her son’s backpack. The weapon, police later found, had been reported stolen.
Carroll told police that she was aware the weapon was listed as stolen. Over a month earlier, she told police, she had retrieved several firearms she owned from a storage unit and moved them to her mother’s house. While going through the weapons, she found the gun she recalled had been reported stolen by a former boyfriend in late 2019 while they were living together, the affidavit states.
Carroll told police she was worried about storing the gun because “she did not want to get into trouble.” She placed it in her car, she said, and planned to turn it over to police. But when her father asked to use her vehicle, Carroll said she was concerned about the weapon being in the car. She grabbed the hard case and put it into her son’s backpack, which she was also taking out of the car, and forgot to remove it before her son went to school the next day, she told police.
Carroll appeared in front of a judge for her first court date on Sept. 20 but missed the next one on Oct. 4, records show.
Days after missing that appearance, Carroll sent a handwritten note to the judge claiming there had been an error with her paperwork. She told the judge that she had not been able to call her employer after she was arrested for missing her court appearance and “as a result I lost my job.”
She is due back in court on Nov. 4, court records state.