A Springfield woman got a loaded gun into the Sangamon County courthouse on Monday in an incident that sheriff’s officials say is best described as a fluke.
Lakeshia Ann Stapleton, due for a 9 a.m. court appearance on a misdemeanor charge of damaging property, went through the front-entrance security line at 9:10 a.m., according to court records and a Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office. Just as her purse went through a scanning machine, there was a disturbance in the courthouse lobby, which prompted a courthouse security officer to momentarily take his eyes off the scanner’s monitoring screen, said Chief Deputy Joe Roesch of the sheriff’s office. When the officer looked back at the screen, he saw an image of a .357-caliber Smith and Wesson magnum revolver inside a purse that appeared on the screen.
By then, the purse had gone through the scanner and Stapleton had grabbed it, Roesch said. She was on an elevator before anyone could stop her.
Monday mornings are typically the busiest time of the week in the courthouse, Roesch noted, and elevators are often so full that it’s impossible for someone to get on one at the last minute.
Courthouse security officers in the lobby immediately radioed that there was a gun in the building, and officers began a floor-by-floor sweep for a purse matching the one in the scanner image. An officer spotted the purse on the fourth floor, just outside the elevator, and Stapleton was taken into custody. Roesch said that she was captured before she left a fourth-floor lobby area outside the elevator.
Stapleton, 23, told officers that she had forgotten to take the gun out of her purse. She had a FOID card but not a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The serial number on the weapon had been removed, apparently with a file, according to Roesch and a sheriff’s office report.
Stapleton was booked on suspicion of unlawful use of weapons and defacing the identifying marks of a firearm and bonded out of jail on Tuesday. Roesch said that Stapleton would not discuss removal of the gun’s serial number. She said that she grabbed her purse off the scanning machine’s conveyor belt and hustled onto an elevator because she was running late for court and didn’t want to have a warrant issued.
“There’s no evidence that she had any malice or forethought to commit a crime,” Roesch said.
Roesch said that courthouse security officers have been told to keep a closer eye on the scanning machine monitoring screen, but won’t be disciplined. Roesch said he’s not aware of another instance in which a gun has been illegally brought into the courthouse. He praised the security staff for immediately determining that a gun was in the courthouse and quickly finding it.
“On its face, it sounds bad, but I am extremely happy with how our courthouse security officers handled this,” Roesch said.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.