Pocket knife in car parked at school leads to teen’s arrest
by Leo Hohmann
September 16, 2013 12:44 PM | 45540 views | 61 61 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Andy Williams, left, will learn the fate of his son Andrew's future at Allatoona High School on Monday when school administrators decide whether to expel Andrew from school for having a pocket knife in the console of his car on school grounds. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Andy Williams, left, will learn the fate of his son Andrew's future at Allatoona High School on Monday when school administrators decide whether to expel Andrew from school for having a pocket knife in the console of his car on school grounds.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
Andrew Williams shows where a pocket knife was stored in his 1993 Lexus ES 300 console where school administrators discovered it. The Allatoona senior is facing expulsion after school authorities found the knife.
Andrew Williams shows where a pocket knife was stored in his 1993 Lexus ES 300 console where school administrators discovered it. The Allatoona senior is facing expulsion after school authorities found the knife.
Andrew Williams never thought when he pulled into the student parking lot at Allatoona High School last Thursday in his 1993 Lexus ES 300 that he would leave school later that day as an accused felon.

The 18-year-old senior with a mop of blond hair is described by his dad as a “very laid back kid,” who basically minds his own business. He has a girlfriend, works a part-time job at a local restaurant and plans to attend college next year, possibly at nearby Kennesaw State University.

Now all those plans could get derailed.

His unexpected brush with the law began when a fellow student at Allatoona contacted a campus police officer Sept. 5 with an anonymous tip. The student reported seeing smoke rising from Williams’ car in the student parking lot and said it smelled like marijuana.

The officer informed Assistant Principal Sam Sanford of the accusation.

What happened from there is laid out in an arrest warrant on file with the Cobb magistrate court.

Sanford called Williams into his office.

He got right to the point.

He reminded Williams of the school’s policy that all vehicles parked on school property are subject to searches at any time and asked if Williams remembered that.

“Yeah,” Williams recalls saying in response. 

“Well, we’re going to do that,” the assistant principal reportedly said. “Give me your keys.”

The school district’s campus police did not produce a search warrant, Williams said, nor did he give anyone permission to search his vehicle.

“We just walked out there and I watched him search my car,” Williams said.

After searching for about 10 minutes, Sanford, according to the warrant, said he “smelled marijuana” but never found any.

What he did find while sifting through the student’s personal possessions is causing more problems for the Acworth teenager than any marijuana joint ever could.

Sanford opened the center console of the car and found a pocket knife.

He seized it, and turned it over to authorities.

The blade measured 3 inches, long enough to place Williams in violation of Section 16-11-127.1 of the Georgia state penal code: “Carrying weapons within a school safety zone.” Among the forbidden weapons is any knife with a blade longer than 2 inches.

Sanford turned his student over to the officer who supplied the original information about possible pot smoke from the unnamed student informant.

The officer had Williams booked into the Cobb County jail. 

He was released more than 24 hours later on a $5,000 bond.

The high school, under Principal Scott Bursmith, has suspended Williams for 10 days and is, according to the family, recommending Williams be expelled. A disciplinary tribunal is pending.

Rescuing his friends

Under closer examination, it was clear that the contraband in question wasn’t an ordinary pocket knife but an EMT rescue knife. Williams had placed it in his car with the knowledge of his parents for a very specific reason.

“We knew he had one,” said the teen’s dad, Andy Williams. “His grandparents have one exactly like it they keep in their glove box. It’s got a hooked edge so you can put that on the seatbelt and run it across the seatbelt to cut it off.”

Andy Williams, a local homebuilder in west Cobb, was dazed when confronted about the charges against his son.

“I look at it as a rescue tool. It just never crossed our minds that this could result in a felony weapons charge,” he said. “I think the intent of the law, they don’t want people coming into the school carrying knives and I totally agree with that, but there’s got to be some kind of common sense to that. It’s just whether someone can admit they’re wrong.”

And why would Andrew need a rescue tool?

“The other thing about this people don’t know is Andrew was in a terrible car accident in February where he had to bust the window out and start dragging his friends out because he thought the car was going to blow up, and literally two weeks after that he went out and bought an EMT rescue knife. 

“That’s the part where, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Andy Williams. “It would be one thing if he had the knife on him inside the school or if he pulled it out and threatened someone. He’s never threatened anyone in his life.”

In fact, Andrew is just the opposite kind of a guy.

He fought to free himself from the mangled car and then got three of his four friends out, despite suffering two broken vertebra and a broken rib. The fourth friend, the driver, had to be cut out of the wreckage by EMTs. All survived, though the driver lost a couple of toes.

Fighting car-crash demons

Andrew still has problems dealing with the emotional after-effects of the crash. He doesn’t like to talk about it, and he insists on driving whenever he goes anywhere with friends.

“The car was totaled. It scared him to death, and within two weeks of that wreck he bought this knife and put it in his car, and now he’s getting crucified over it,” said Andy Williams. “I’ve talked with my wife about it and said he may need some counseling to get over it.” 

But for now, Andy and his wife, Yvette, are focused on Monday, when they have a preliminary hearing with school officials. Administrators are recommending that Andrew be expelled from school for the rest of the school year, according to Andy Williams.

“Yes, he was planning to go to college. This will totally wreck the rest of his life if he’s convicted. Totally, for having a rescue tool in his console while parked at school?”

If found guilty, the weapons charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and two to 10 years in prison.

‘Zero tolerance’ vs. common sense

Mazi Mazloom, a criminal defense attorney and president of the Cobb Bar Association, said students give up some of their constitutional rights when they arrive at public schools every morning.

But they don’t check all their rights at the door, or the parking lot.

“No, they still have to have probable cause to search. And last time I checked hearsay is not probable cause,” Mazloom said, referring to the anonymous student who accused Andrew Williams. “That’s hearsay by a third party. An unnamed student is not enough to give them the right to search his vehicle without a warrant.

“As far as the odor of marijuana, if the officer went up to the vehicle and smelled it himself that would give the officer the right to search. 

“They can have drug dogs at the school and sniff around everyone’s car, but you can’t just single folks out, especially on hearsay.”

Having a “weapon,” as defined by recent zero-tolerance laws, on school grounds carries even less wiggle room for students.

“On school property it is zero tolerance. That is the problem. It is extreme, but unfortunately, yes, that’s the law,” Mazloom said. “There’s no exception for parents, so I would say that parents are also subject to those zero-tolerance laws.”

Bracing for backlash

Randy Scamihorn, chairman of the Cobb County Board of Education and the representative whose district includes Allatoona High School on Dallas Acworth Highway, said he would try to learn all the facts of the case at the appropriate time. In the meantime, he was bracing for a public backlash.

“I’m going to take the brunt of it, but it’s the state law that is at the heart of the matter,” Scamihorn said. “I’m unaware of the details of this case. But, speaking generally, we want to make sure our parents and students are treated fairly and with respect.”

Cobb School District spokesman Doug Goodwin would not comment on the case, saying the district was bound by confidentiality laws and could not even confirm whether Andrew Williams was a student enrolled at Allatoona High School. 

As for Andrew, he is trying not to let the incident get him down, but he realizes the seriousness of what happened.

“It already kind of is ruining my plans. I’m just waiting on Monday for my hearing to find out if they’re going to expel me or not. If that goes well, then I hope it doesn’t ruin my future. But if it doesn’t go well, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

His dad says he can even accept an expulsion, if it comes to that. But having his son tagged as a violent criminal is another matter.

“I’m just flabbergasted. It just blows me away,” he said. “I know the state has a zero tolerance law as far as what they consider weapons and evidently that goes to kids’ cars in the parking lot.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 23, 2014
Why can't people use a happy medium for once? At my school, IN the school, a kid pulled out a pocket knife, and told another kid "You don't want to cross me." I'm not sure if the administration ever found out about that incident, but his knife was found IN the school, and he never even got suspended. What's up with that?????
December 16, 2013
Next they'll tell us we are under arrest for breathing out poisonous gases. This country...
kids r nuts
September 24, 2013
Every internal combustion car in every parking lot everywhere is filled with a highly explosive flammable liquid, more than enough to burn you to death or blow up a classroom, so why play games over a stupid pocket knife? It's not an AR-15, after all. Don't we have bigger fish to fly?

Why worry about a pocket knife? I'll tell you why: Because kids are bat sheet CRAZY, that's why. There are reasons high schools are run like prisons. It's because the average 17 year old has the anger issues and impulse control issues of your average unemployed drug addicted serial killer.

What's that? You say you don't want to drive to school without breaking the "no knife" rule because you are emotionally scarred from some previous car crash and you think a pocket knife will save you from future distress?

The answer is quite simple: SO DON'T DRIVE TO SCHOOL.

October 08, 2013
"It's because the average 17 year old has the anger issues and impulse control issues of your average unemployed drug addicted serial killer."

LOL - You fail.
C'mon Use Your Brain
October 20, 2013
"kids are bat sheet CRAZY" --- wow you just falsely and wrongly, generalized and demonized millions of human beings in one foul swoop. Congratulations. As an 18 year old. I can assure you that most of use DO NOT fit your description.
September 22, 2013
I'm so glad I got out of school before this insanity started.
September 22, 2013
He should leave and not look back. He's probably a smart enough kid to just get his GED and start going to college anyways.

He likely has more common sense than the mid-level drones who decided this was a good idea from start to finish, anyways.
September 22, 2013
I keep a gun in my car and it is completely legal and I can park in a School parking lot and no one has the right to search my vehicle without my consent. It would be real stupid to ruin this young mans life, it would be a lot smarter to help him make it to college and become a valuable asset to his community.

The stupidity of the school leaders involved is even worse than the people that read blogs like this and can't get their facts straight when the facts are only a few paragraphs above their comments.

Zero Tolerance rules should include common sense stipulations and be adjusted accordingly.
Jon H
October 19, 2013
I completely agree that the school leaders and administration has lost their mind along with what should be their careers because their actions are highly moronic and they should go back to school themselves to learn some common sense.

However, you cannot keep a gun in your car and it is not "completely" legal on school grounds. The scope of search and seizure is different because the school as well as the airports, are institutions that are deemed "special places" therefore, they had every right to search the student's car as they have on yours. HOWEVER, in this case, the weapon was not even a weapon, and they are completely mentally retarded.
Richard Vivian
September 20, 2013
Zero tolerance=Zero judgment...The elected officials that make up these zero tolerance laws believe the average person is incapable or too stupid to analyze a given situation and make an appropriate decision on its outcome. Get you a good lawyer and then sue the be-jesus out of the county and the school administration.

S. M.
September 19, 2013
It's metro Atlanta for the love of God. I'm a harmless caucasian middle class citizen and yet I carry a pocket knife with me everywhere too. He didn't bring it into the school and he OBVIOUSLY wasn't intending to harm anyone with it, so why the heck is this even an issue? Doesn't law enforcement and our judicial system have bigger fish to fry than some kid who had a pocket knife in his car? This is absolutely outrageous. The administrators and principles involved are obviously bored and incompetent and their positions at the school should be reevaluated and someone needs to be held responsible for the unconstitutional search of Andrew's car. Wake up, America! When you give these men power they abuse it and the government is in place to control the flock, not protect it. Your tax dollars are going to support these imbeciles and your kid could be the next victim.
September 19, 2013
This is why I hate cobb county.
Cannabis Activist
September 19, 2013
The problem is parents in Cobb County are feeding into pot propaganda. And instead of blowing up at me which someone will do, read facts about why this war on drugs doesn't work! Better yet look at the stats of the kids that graduated years 2005-2009 from HHS. Especially 2008 and 2009. Our classes have had some of the worst of the tragedies...

Kristina Shag
September 19, 2013
State rep Ed Setzlers email


Mayor of Acworth's Email


Cobb County School Board Chair Randy Scamihorn


Allatoona High School Principle Scott Bursmith

September 19, 2013
I went to Allatoona High School and know damn well that most guys carry a pocket knife with them. Whether it's in their car or in their pocket, they have one. If Sanford were to open all the cars in the student parking lot and search them, more than half of those kids would be going to jail. The administration at Allatoona has always been ridiculous and will be until new administrators are hired. He has his whole college career ahead of him within a matter of months and thanks to the old man who was looking for trouble anyway, it's going to be ruined. And searching his car just because someone smelled weed? What a weak excuse to search a car. This whole thing is BS.

Cobb Taxpayer
September 18, 2013
Does anyone know what happened at the preliminary hearing with school officials.

Also, who are the "Administrators" recommending that Andrew be expelled from school for the rest of the school year. Would the School Board or Superintendent have the final say in expelling the student.

This is amazing we are not holding the board and "administrators" to a higher standard.
Ed the plumber
September 18, 2013
Absolutely Outraged

You are as bright as a jar of mayonnaise! The person was calling out BS on lil Andrew’s claim. As I read it, this guy was not behind Andrew rather challenging Andrew on what Andrew has not learned from the previous crash where it was made clear substance abuse was involved. Read before you type.

anon 2013
September 17, 2013
Please read the comment from Joseph W. - the father of the boy that Andrew was in the car accident with. There are always two sides to every story and obviously MDJ only got one side of this story.
eCobb Dad of 3
September 17, 2013
First, let me say this is a stupid rule/law governing that this kid should be expelled. He wasn't found to be in possession of any illicit drug. The search of the car would never hold up in any criminal proceeding and is illegal. There was no probable cause to search the vehicle. I'd be shocked if any judge would disagree with me. The reason for possessing the knife is a good one. I have no problem with the Dad's decision to let him have this tool in his car. If I were this family I'd be lining up a lawsuit against the county if they take adverse action against him.

Has anyone ever considered perhaps the "tip" the school police received could've been from someone who may have a grudge against this kid? It wouldn't be the first time a kid lied to an administrator. I'd be curious as to what level of vetting was done on the tip.

The school district needs to let this issue go. They will never be able to defend taking adverse action against this kid if the family sues which in all likelyhood they will. If they have additional evidence to support their case that hasn't been reported then it's a different story but my guess is they don't.
The search...
September 17, 2013
Smelling MJ is an *OLD* police trick to initiate an otherwise illegal search. It gives instant probable cause, and because it cannot be captured on as evidence, it cannot later be refuted in court.

Any search based on anonymous hearsay and transient smells should instantly peg the BS o'meter...
September 17, 2013
Sorry...too fast fingers. I meant how does he know what pot SMELLS like.
September 17, 2013
How does the principal know what pot semms like? We need to ask him that.
September 20, 2013
Possibly because he's attended a rock concert in his lifetime? That's the only reason I know. My friends pointed it out to me, and it is a distinct smell. (I'm fortunate to look innocent enough that no one has ever even bothered to offer me any pot, so I never had to even worry about having to "just say no.")
othee ierny
September 16, 2013
We say we don't want our children to repeat our mistakes, but then we give them a car to get started on our same sorry, sadly mistaken path of dependency on cars. And then the school complains about what's in the car like the car itself isn't more dangerous than some gun, knife or drug.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides