Custodian charged in loaded gun found at Sioux Falls school

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Police have arrested a custodian at a Sioux Falls high school for allegedly planting a gun that he claimed to have found hidden in a bathroom ceiling at the school and then lying to investigators during questioning.

Police said there was never any danger to students at the Career and Technical Education Academy, which serves more than 800 students from nine districts. However, the incident led to heightened security at Sioux Falls schools on Monday before the arrest of the custodian, Joseph Croal.

Croal, 25, allegedly told police on Friday that he found a Ruger handgun in the ceiling of a men's bathroom, along with .22-caliber rifle bullets under a garbage can in the restroom.

Croal told detectives he had been asked by a school principal to thoroughly search the school, and that he remembered washing a footprint off a wall and finding two fingerprints on the ceiling. He told detectives he used a ladder to remove a ceiling tile, revealing the gun, according to court documents obtained by the Argus Leader.

Using Croal's timeline, police took cheek swabs from the 25 to 30 students and staff who used the restroom. They then asked Croal to take a polygraph and he agreed. After that, Croal's story allegedly changed, with him telling police he had found the gun in a vehicle in the auto shop, panicked because he had touched it, and hid it in the bathroom.

Croal was arrested following an investigation over the weekend that involved reviews of security cameras at the school. He was charged Monday with possessing a firearm in a school and false reporting to law enforcement. He was in custody on $5,025 bond, according to jail documents. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney, and a home phone listing couldn't be found. Calls to the jail Monday rang unanswered.

Police Capt. Blaine Larsen did not discuss a possible motive, but he said, "We think it was just some bad decisions on this employee's part."

Croal has worked with the school district since November 2015 and with the academy since April 2016, Superintendent Brian Maher said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com


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