The trust and rapport that the Big Sky High School Resource Officer has built with students was the impetus behind the 17 year-old suspect being apprehended after a chase on Friday.

MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane said it is important to know that at no time was there a gun inside the school building.

“One of the things we’ve emphasized, especially after the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida has been if students see something, they say something,” said Thane. “The situation that developed Friday at Big Sky was because students brought to our attention their concern with regard to potential criminal activity. That’s important in terms of us maintaining a safe school environment. While certainly the situation escalated, the fact of the matter is we can say clearly that there was not a student in possession of a weapon in the building.”

Thane said the purpose of having a School Resource Officer is twofold.

“The first is to investigate any criminal activity that may be occurring,” he said. “I think what’s really important, though, is also to develop rapport with students and engage in community policing to help foster positive relationships between our students and the City Police Department, to provide security for school events. It’s a vital part of the school.”

The School Resource Officers are employed by the Missoula Police Department and are on a contract with the school district.