Dad of boy who brought gun to school arrested

Hilltop HS student, 14, taken into custody

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A man is expected to face charges stemming from a campus gun scare involving his 14-year-old son, who brought a loaded pistol belonging to his father to his South Bay high school, police said Thursday.

Zachariah Joseph Dow, 36, surrendered to Chula Vista police on Wednesday night, about seven hours after the non-injury gun scare at Hilltop High School, according to police.

An assistant principal at the Claire Avenue campus made an emergency call in the late morning to report that several students had seen a ninth-grader displaying a handgun in class, Chula Vista police Lt. Fritz Reber said.

"They claimed the suspect student ... made statements indicating that the gun was loaded and that he could potentially use (it) to shoot someone at school," Reber said.

When officers went to the suspect's classroom and summoned him, he stood up and reached for his backpack, though not in "an aggressive way," the lieutenant said, and they rushed over and took him into custody without incident. Inside the boy's bag was a loaded .44-caliber revolver, according to police.

The arrested teen was booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of bringing a loaded firearm onto school grounds.

Detectives discovered that the boy's father owned the gun that police seized at the school. An unsecured .22 caliber pistol also was found under a mattress in the man's home, according to police.

Dow was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, owning prohibited ammunition, child cruelty and criminal storage of a firearm. He posted bail and was released from custody about 7:15 a.m. Thursday, a jail clerk said.

10News sources confirm Dow used to work in law enforcement before he was convicted of a felony. His criminal record includes at least one domestic violence conviction involving his ex-wife.

Friends of the arrested boy told news crews he had been bullied at school.

While detectives search for a motive, 10News learned troubling new details about the teenager's parents.

The boy's mother committed suicide seven years ago. Chere Rhode's death made tabloid headlines and was covered by the website TMZ. At the time, she was a 30-year-old Penthouse model dating 70-year-old Max Baer Jr. from the "Beverly Hillbillies" TV show. Her MySpace page still has photos of the actor with her two young children.

Dow's next hearing is scheduled for May 29 at 1:30 p.m. in Chula Vista Superior Court.

District officials said parents were notified of the incident.

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