Minerva man arrested after incident at high school

MINERVA – A Minerva man was arrested Tuesday morning following an incident Monday evening at the high school.

Minerva Police Chief Bob First said Kevin L. Wingert, 51, was at the school Monday night, where he was seen attempting to gain access at several doors. He eventually got into the auxiliary gymnasium, a separate building adjacent to the high school. There, a student heard Wingert say, “No more Minerva High School.” No direct threat was made, and no weapons were involved.

It was unclear if the auxiliary gym door was locked, as athletic practices were going on inside at the time.

Minerva Local Superintendent Joe Chaddock said it was unclear if Wingert was making a threat, or saying that he was not allowed at the school. Wingert previously had been asked by school officials and police to stay away after causing concern at an athletic event.

“He was asked to stay away because of pending legal matters,” First said. “Anytime they have anybody come around the school, you get a little nervous these days.”

First said his department had extra officers working Tuesday, especially around the schools.

“We probably will tomorrow too,” he said.

Wingert, of Stafford Street, was picked up by Minerva police officers shortly after 9 a.m. without incident and transported to Stark County Jail, where he is being held on a $50,000 bond. According to First, Wingert was arrested for the comments he made and charged with inducing panic and criminal trespassing, a felony charge because it was at a school.

Wingert was found guilty in December of a concealed weapons charge regarding an incident in August at the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton. The weapon was confiscated by Columbiana County sheriff’s deputies.

First also said that about four months ago, Wingert was involved in an automobile accident outside of town and several propane tanks were found in his trunk, also causing some concern.

“We’ve been watching him closely,” First said. “We tried to get him help. At one point we were able to check his property and search his house, and we didn’t find anything unusual.”

Chaddock was in the school parking lot on Monday when Wingert showed up. “I got out of my car and called police,” he said.

Chaddock said there also were a couple staff members there for an athletic practice. He stayed with Wingert until police arrived and asked him to leave.

“There are just some things there that make us uneasy having him around,” Chaddock said. “As soon as I had some solid information, I met with staff this morning, and we put out an all-call to parents to let them know what was going on.”

Chaddock said that somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of students were called off school because of rumors surrounding the incident. He said about 20 percent were absent, but the school has had 10 to 15 percent out recently because of illness. He also said that excused absences were given to students who missed school because of the incident.

“I have four kids in the district, and all mine were at school today,” Chaddock said. “I felt we had it under control. I felt the police did a nice job and were handling it.

“The major concern was that he had some history. It’s a sad situation – from what we know, he’s lost all the people he had to help care for him over the last couple years.”

First said that only the high school was involved. The district’s middle school and elementary, which share a campus but are separate buildings, were not visited or mentioned by Wingert.