Hardin High School

Hardin High School is seen on Wednesday. A student was suspended last Friday and now faces criminal charges stemming from gun possession and attempted robbery.

TAILYR IRVINE, Gazette Staff

The Hardin High School student accused of bringing a gun to school last week and trying to rob a student of his lunch money was apprehended Friday, according to the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office. 

Hardin Public Schools were closed Friday "Due to new information about the student at-large," according to a posting to the district's Facebook page. 

Uttekaat Isaiah Jade Birdinground was "apprehended" Friday with the help of several law enforcement agencies including the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to a statement. 

Birdinground was in the custody of the County Sheriff's Office around at 3:45 p.m., according to the school district's Facebook page, and he would be taken to Billings, the sheriff's office said.

School officials made the announcement to close Hardin's public schools on the district's Facebook page late Thursday night.

“Due to new information about the student at-large, we will be canceling all Hardin District Schools tomorrow for the safety of our students and staff,” the message read. “We ask that students remain home and safe.”

Superintendent Dennis Gerke said Friday that Birdinground, the student, had not attended school since last Friday. The school had disciplinary dealings with Birdinground in the past, but none had risen to the level of school safety threats, the superintendent said.

"I just want to stress that safety for our students and our staff and our community is our No. 1 concern at this point," Gerke said.

The Big Horn County Sheriff's Office asked for the public's help Friday in finding Birdinground and people were urged not to approach him. 

Birdinground is accused of flashing a handgun at another student and demanding lunch money. The suspect apparently carried the gun in the waistband of his pants, showing it to the victim as he demanded money on Jan. 26, charges state. The incident was reported to school officials later that day. 

School officials searched the student but did not find the weapon, charging documents state, but a Glock 27 handgun was later found in a school classroom.

Surveillance video reportedly shows the student "walking around the school holding his waistband and looking into the principal's office, who was not in the building," according to the affidavit.

When asked about the gun, the student reportedly said he had been joking around with a black hair dryer that was in the classroom. 

Another student found the gun and gave it to Hardin High School art teacher Nora Block Jan. 26, and she left it in her desk overnight before placing it under a student's desk and calling police on Saturday, according to court documents. Block told deputies she had found the gun while cleaning the classroom.

Block was arrested and has been charged with having a gun on campus, tampering with evidence and obstructing justice in connection to the incident.

Birdinground has been suspended and could be expelled.

Block has been suspended with pay pending an investigation, and Gerke has said he will seek her termination. In her four years as an art teacher at the school, she had not previously been subject to disciplinary actions, he said.

Friday night basketball games at Hardin High School were canceled as a result of the search for Birdinground. 

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Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.

Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.