VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two of three charges were dropped Tuesday morning for a man accused of trespassing and taking a hatchet into Salem High School.
Police said Kirk Beckwith Cowart trespassed onto school property in October 2014 before the school day began. A cafeteria worker spotted Cowart and called police. When officers arrived they found Cowart sitting on the auditorium stage with a hatchet. He was arrested and charged with trespassing onto school property, possession of a weapon on school property and disorderly conduct.
On Tuesday, Cowart pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge, but the judge dropped the other two charges. According to the judge, per Virginia code, a hatchet does not count as a weapon. Cowart also had a pocket knife with him that day, but in order for it to be classified as a weapon under Virginia law, it would have had to be longer than three inches, which it was not.
The trespassing charge was also dropped because the doors Cowart walked through did not have a “NO TRESPASSING” sign on them. He did,however, walk through a second pair of doors that had a “NO TRESPASSING” sign, but the doors were propped open, covering the sign.
Cowart was sentenced to 365 days in prison, but 305 days were suspended and the remaining days he already served, since his arrest in October. He was released from jail at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and would not speak to a WAVY News crew as he walked to a vehicle with his twin brother.
Cowart will remain on probation for three years and was banned from all Virginia Beach schools. The judge also ordered he remain in treatment and comply with all treatment medications.
Cowart’s father, Robert Cowart, told WAVY.com his son plans on moving to Texas to live with his mom and sister. He plans to go to a veterans mental health facility in Waco, where he previously spent almost four months.
Officials say the probation unit in Virginia will have contact with the Texas probation unit and they will monitor Cowart and update Virginia every two months. Officials say if Cowart violates probation in Texas, he will be brought back to Virginia to face the suspended prison sentence of 305 days.
Robert Cowart told WAVY.com his son was in the marines, but was discharged after boot camp, due to mental health issues. He never deployed.