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Loaded gun, knives found in 4th grade Pinellas teacher’s backpack, cops say

Pinellas County
Betty Soto

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A fourth grade teacher at Starkey Elementary School was arrested on Monday.

The 49-year-old is accused of having weapons in her backpack, including a Glock 9mm handgun loaded with seven rounds of ammunition, a six-inch fighting knife and a two-inch finger knife.

According to deputies, all of the weapons were in her classroom where students were present.

Erica Kennedy is a parent of two children who attend Starkey Elementary School in Seminole. She was stunned to learn the news.

“Shock, absolute shock,” the mother-of-three told WFLA. “Almost disbelief. I can’t believe something like that would happen at this school. I almost think they’re going to have to start checking teacher’s bags, or maybe even have a metal detector to set something off.”

According to the school district, Betty Soto was acting suspcious Monday morning, carrying her backpack everywhere she went, guarding it closely.

The principal noticed the “strange” behavior and notified the authorities.

Police officers with Pinellas County Schools and deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrived on campus after being alerted by the principal. Law enforcement officers say they interviewed Soto and found the weapons in her backpack.

She bonded out of jail Monday night shortly after 9 p.m.

Soto was angry, defiant and unwilling to answer questions as WFLA asked several times, “Why would you bring a loaded gun and two knives to school?”

“Ask Desantis,” she answered. “Ask your governor.”

Erica Kennedy says, with two children at Starkey Elementary, she’s worried. She described Soto’s behavior as militant and suspicious.

“She seemed very abrupt, the way she was speaking. I almost felt like she was talking to these kids like she was their parent, you know, just really, a little overboard. So, it made me kind of, something kind of went up in the back of my hair like, hmmm,” the mom explained.

As part of this case, school leaders confirmed to WFLA they will investigate Betty Soto’s Facebook page, including a post shared publicly that reads, in part, “Are you surpised I’m a revolutionary? You should have seen it coming. Hate that I was on my way to the plantation, but I had to free some minds.”

Soto has been with the district with three years.

According to the school distrcit, Soto will not return to Starkey Elementary this year.

Pinellas County Schools told WFLA they will wait for the results of the court case and then take appropriate disciplinary action.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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