OPINION: On the arrest of the Newnan High School Student

The process has worked as intended... so far.

Home Opinion OPINION: On the arrest of the Newnan High School Student

The following is the Opinion of the Admin in regards to the arrest of 17 year old Landon James Dhaene on February 9th, 2023. You can read our original article on the arrest here.

A quick tl;dr summary, please read below to understand further why.


– The Students, School Officials, and SRO operated exactly how they are asked, trained and required to respond to a threat.


– The SRO’s arrest of the Student was required by, and in line, with Georgia Law.


– The fact that the student is facing a felony charge is as a result of the GA law he’s charged with breaking and not a choice made by the SRO.


– It’s within the purview of the District Attorney’s office to take into account the totality of the incident and show leniency in prosecution.


– I believe that the events of February 9th show a commendable display of exactly how students, school officials, and officers working together can ensure the safety of our schools. While I understand and empathize with the journey that the student now faces, that is separate from these actions.

With the February 9th arrest of 17 year old student Landon James Dhaene at Newnan High School for possessing a knife on school grounds, the communities reaction has been split.


I want to take a moment to breakdown the series of events that lead to the student’s arrest, according to the information released by the school and a statement made by NPD Lt. Greg VanSant to the Newnan Times-Herald.


It’s reasonable to look at the events of February 9th in two different lenses, in fact it’s a requirement to understand the response of the SRO and school officials. It’s also important to keep in mind that this was an immediate threat, material different in almost every way from the threats we often hear of from social media and graffiti on the walls of the bathroom.


In the first phase, which we will call the threat phase, officials are made aware of a threat. From that moment forward their response is guided by policy, training and is focused on finding and neutralizing the immediate threat to the students and staff. The priority actions would be to identify the threat, locate the threat, and neutralize the threat. Phase two, or what we will call the investigative phase, would start as soon as the initial threat is located and neutralized. The priority actions of this phase would be to find out of there are other actors, or a further threat, and for the SRO to do an investigation including speaking to the student and witnesses.


The series of events started when Dhaene “bragged” to other students that he was in possession of a knife. It’s unclear exactly what he stated, if he described the type of location of the knife or just that he had a knife.


This initiated phase one when those students informed school officials of the student stating he had a weapon.


School Officials immediately contacted the SRO on location with the information. The SRO acting on the information given to them located and detained the student locating the weapon and neutralizing the threat. This ended phase one.


So lets take a quick look at how phase one played out. The students learned of a threat and contacted School Officials. This is perfect, it’s exactly what we teach students to do. Their actions should be celebrated as a success and they should be commended for following through on what they’ve been taught.


The school officials, being made aware of the threat, immediately contacted the SRO. Again, this is exactly what they are supposed to do. The SRO, being made aware of the threat, acted on the information they were given, locating the student, and detaining him. Once detained the SRO was able to locate and confiscate the weapon and with this neutralizing the threat. What isn’t covered in any information released, but can be assumed by what is know about policy and procedure, the student was questioned by NPD staff before being transported to the jail to ensure there were no remaining threats.


The SRO is a Newnan Police Officer, specially assigned as a School Resource Officer. In their reactionary role, they are there to be able to respond immediately to any threat present at the school. In their preventive role, they interface with students and staff, provide resources about school issues and home issues, and are generally there to ensure everyone’s safety.


What has to be taken into consideration about Phase one, that I don’t believe comes naturally to those outside the situation, is that you don’t actually know the true level of the threat at the time. While students are coming to you with information, you can’t assume that the information is correct ( students that are already shy about coming to school officials, may be trying to downplay the actual threat, or in some cases add information to make it more reasonable to themselves to make a report. The same thing can be seen in 911 calls, i.e. someone adding the existence of a gun thinking it will get a quicker response ), or that it’s the only threat. The students, and thereby the school officials and SRO, probably don’t have any idea of what that person’s intent is.


For that reason, all threats must be treated as real, immediate and on-going until such time as they have been neutralized and investigated sufficiently to obtain enough detail.


In this case, that seems to be exactly how it progressed, following the plan, procedure, and standards.


Now phase two would see the SRO question the detained student to gather details about the incident, his intent and to determine if there was any other threat existing at the school. In my experience once a student is detained, they are taken to the SRO’s office within the school, for safety. The SRO may also request further resources from within the department to come to the school to assist in investigating and often to transport if the student is arrested. The SRO would also at this point, with the student detained, speak with the students that initially reported the threat.


We can learn a little about what occurred during this phase by a statement given by Lt. VanZant with the NPD given to the Newnan Times-Herald. In his statement confirming the students arrest, VanZant made it clear that the Dhaene had “not presented or threatened anyone with [the knife].” This information would have only been known after speaking with the students that reported the threat.


Now, to what I believe most people are most concerned with, the arrest of Dhaene and the fact he was charged with a felony.


It’s undisputed at this point that Dhaene was in fact in possession of a “pocket knife” while on school grounds.


Being a police officer, the SRO’s duties are separate from that of the school, and are spelled out by law in this situation. While officers do have some discretion, in this case the law is clear as to what is expected given the situation.


Dhaene was charged with a single count of Weapon, Carrying within School Safety Zones. This charge is spelled out in O.C.G.A § 16-11-127.1 ( Carrying Weapons Within School Safety Zones, at School Functions, or on a Bus or Other Transportation Furnished by a School ).


The following subsections are important and pertain to Dhaene’s situation.

O.C.G.A § 16-11-127.1(a)(3)


“School safety zone” means in or on any real property or building owned by or leased to:


  1. Any public or private elementary school, secondary school, or local board of education and used for elementary or secondary education; and
  2. Any public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university, or other institution of postsecondary education.

O.C.G.A § 16-11-127.1(a)(4)


“Weapon” means and includes any pistol, revolver, or any weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind, or any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, any other knife having a blade of two or more inches, straight-edge razor, razor blade, spring stick, knuckles, whether made from metal, thermoplastic, wood, or other similar material, blackjack, any bat, club, or other bludgeon-type weapon, or any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken, or fighting chain, or any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, or any weapon of like kind, and any stun gun or taser as defined in subsection (a) of Code Section 16-11-106. This paragraph excludes any of these instruments used for classroom work authorized by the teacher.

O.C.G.A § 16-11-127.1(b)(1)


Except as otherwise provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, it shall be unlawful for any person to carry to or to possess or have under such person’s control while within a school safety zone, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by a school any weapon or explosive compound, other than fireworks or consumer fireworks the possession of which is regulated by Chapter 10 of Title 25.




O.C.G.A § 16-11-127.1(b)(2)


Except as provided for in paragraph (20) of subsection (c) of this Code section, any license holder who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person who is not a license holder who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.00, by imprisonment for not less than two nor more than ten years, or both.

While the knife that Dhaene was in possession of has only been referred to as a “pocket knife” we can assume that the blade was more then 2 inches in length. That being said, according to the law, he was in a school safety zone, he was in possession of a knife and we can assume given his age that he was not a concealed carry permit holder.

Given those facts, the SRO, was required to arrest him under the law and charge him. The fact that is a Felony is outside of their control, as it’s clearly stated in the law.


The next step is up to the District Attorney’s office. This is where the “totality of the incident” can be taken into account and leniency can be shown. From dropping the charges, to the possibility of lesser charges, to a plea deal that keeps him out of jail and allows for possible expungement from his record.

We will follow the case and see what decisions are made by the DA’s office.

All that being said, I believe that the events of February 9th show a commendable display of exactly how students, school officials, and officers working together can ensure the safety of our schools. While I understand and empathize with the journey that the student now faces, that is separate from these actions.

NCST is a service provided to the community by R41D41 Industries, LLC. When information is power, we believe the information should be in the hands of the community.

R41D41 Industries, LLC
15 Perry Street
Suite 402
Newnan, GA 30263

©2023 All Right Reserved. R41D41 Industries, LLC