Mother who pointed toy gun at Church Hill students charged with assault

Jeff Bobo • Apr 20, 2007 at 12:24 PM

CHURCH HILL - A Church Hill mother accused of pointing a toy gun at Church Hill Elementary School kindergarteners and pulling the trigger earlier this week has been charged with assault.

Heather Nicole Berg, 26, 149 Country Lane, Church Hill, met with Hawkins County school officials and Church Hill police Thursday morning at City Hall to discuss the incident, which allegedly occurred Tuesday afternoon.

School officials presented Berg with a letter stating that she is banned from school property for one calendar year.

Church Hill police also issued Berg a citation for misdemeanor assault. Berg was not arrested and will appear in sessions court on April 30.

According to witnesses, Berg came to the school shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday where her child is a kindergarten student to pay a fee for an upcoming field trip.

While the teacher was logging in the payment, a teacher's assistant allegedly witnessed Berg point a toy gun at several students and pull the trigger.

Principal Jean Heise said the incident was especially upsetting to the teaching assistant in light of the Virginia Tech campus shootings that had occurred the day before.

According to school officials who attended the meeting, Berg was very apologetic about the incident. Berg reportedly stated during the meeting that as she was walking to the classroom Tuesday afternoon she noticed her small daughter, who accompanied her, was carrying the silver cap pistol and took it away from the child.

Berg reportedly told school officials she didn't remember pointing the toy gun at any children and said if she did she didn't intend to scare or harm anyone.

"I really do believe that she didn't mean any harm," Heise said. "She still is stating that it was all accidental and she doesn't remember pointing it at anybody, and I told her that was a point where we were having some disagreement. The teaching assistant was very adamant that she took the gun and systematically went click, click to about four or five kids."

Church Hill Police Chief Mark Johnson described Berg's alleged actions with the toy gun as "a monumental lapse of judgment."

Johnson said the incident falls under Tennessee Code Annotated for misdemeanor assault because Berg's actions caused others to "reasonably fear bodily injury."

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 11 months and 29 days in jail but seldom results in jail time for a first offense. A more likely outcome for a first offense is a fine, probation and possibly community service, but the ultimate decision belongs to the judge.

Berg is still permitted to contact the school in writing or by telephone. A grandparent is expected to begin dropping off and picking up Berg's child from school.

Even prior to the toy gun incident CHES had planned a moment of silence for the Virginia Tech victims today at noon. Students are also encouraged to wear maroon and orange to honor and show respect to the victims.

Today is also the eighth anniversary of the Columbine school massacre in Colorado in which 12 students and one teacher were shot to death by two students who then committed suicide.

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