Parent charged after gun found in trash can at Henrico elementary school

Matthew Berger faces two charges including abuse and neglect of children and allowing access to firearms by children
On May 16, a school resource officer was called in reference to a firearm located inside the school.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 11:51 AM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A parent is now facing charges almost a month after a gun was found inside a trash can at Longdale Elementary School in Henrico.

The Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has charged the child’s parent, Matthew Craig Berger, 39, of Henrico, with abuse and neglect of children and allowing access to firearms by children.

On May 16, a school resource officer was called about a firearm inside the school. Henrico Police said the school administration told the SRO a student told a teacher about another student possessing a gun.

After investigating, the child was identified, and the firearm was recovered in a bathroom trash can. Officers also believe there was no known direct threat against anyone.

NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin told NBC12 Berger is facing two Class 1 Misdemeanors. If convicted, each misdemeanor could be punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“I think what you have here is a very careful charging decision to not go overboard but to charge consistent with whatever the facts are that they have determined,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin also believes the charges send a strong message to parents.

“I also think also there’s a growing movement to hold parents responsible when children, those younger than 14, are able to get a hold of a loaded firearm that’s been left unsecured obviously available for the child to take and, in case, take to school,” he said.

The charges come as Henrico reports a rise in incidents of students bringing guns to school. The latest case happened on Wednesday at John Rolfe Middle School, where police found a loaded gun on a student.

This week, Henrico County also shared a gun safety message urging parents to have more vigilance and to keep their firearms locked from children.

“As responsible gun owners, we have to do a better job of having those conversations with our kids, making sure we’re locking up our firearms and making sure they’re not accessible to our school-aged kids,” said Henrico Police Chief Eric English during the video. “I just want to make sure we’re doing our collective job to ensure our schools are safe.”