Pick-Up Ballgame at Illinois Elementary Turns Serious when Gun Is Brandished

Surveillance cameras catch incident; administrators seek to review school's security plan


A pickup basketball game in the Signal Hill Elementary School gymnasium turned scary when a player threatened another with a semiautomatic pistol Saturday morning and fled the scene.

Belleville (Ill.) Police still are looking for a suspect, described as a black male who is in his 30s. His hair is braided in "corn rows," and he was dressed in basketball shorts and a white T-shirt.

The suspect aimed the handgun at a young man in the gym he knew, then left the gym and drove off in a vehicle believed to be a white Pontiac Grand Prix, the year unknown, Detective Mark Eschman said.

"We searched the area for him and we were unable to locate him," Eschman said.

Police do not know the suspect's name. Eschman said the others he was playing with knew him from previous games, but did not know his name.

The incident occurred about 10 a.m. Saturday at the school, located at 41 Signal Hill Place, in Belleville's west end. Between 10 and 15 people were in the gym at the time, Eschman said.

Images of the incident and the suspect's getaway were captured by closed-circuit video cameras located inside the gym and outside the school, said Gina Segobiano, superintendent of Signal Hill School District 181.

A half hour later, Segobiano and school principal Brian Karraker were seated at a video monitor in Karraker's office and helped Eschman review video tape of the incident.

"We're hoping to help as much as we can," Segobiano said.

Segobiano said she was relieved no Signal Hill students were involved. No one was injured.

"This was an adult situation," she said. "It's not someone from our community."

Segobiano said she intends to meet with other school district leaders to determine whether security at the school should be boosted, or whether policies governing use of the gym by nonschool groups or individuals should be reviewed.

Segobiano noted that the school serves as a community center for the surrounding neighborhood and that its use is promoted. The gym is available to local groups who wish to reserve it, provided at least one member from the group lives in the school district, Segobiano said.

"If we need to make any policy changes, we will," she said.