Boy accused of terroristic threats after lockdown of 3 Clearfield schools

May 29 2013 - 5:45am

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Students Charly Bohlender (left) and Sandy Godoy embrace outside North Davis Junior High School on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, in Clearfield, Utah. The school was placed on lockdown after reports of a man with a gun in the building. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Students walk with their hands up past police officers outside North Davis Junior High School on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, in Clearfield, Utah. The school was placed on lockdown after reports of a man with a gun in the building. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Students Charly Bohlender (left) and Sandy Godoy embrace outside North Davis Junior High School on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, in Clearfield, Utah. The school was placed on lockdown after reports of a man with a gun in the building. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Students walk with their hands up past police officers outside North Davis Junior High School on Tuesday, May 28, 2013, in Clearfield, Utah. The school was placed on lockdown after reports of a man with a gun in the building. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

CLEARFIELD -- Crisis counselors will be on hand Wednesday at North Davis Junior High School to help any student who may be upset over the lockdown Tuesday, district officials say.

Police arrested and charged a 13-year-old student with terroristic threats, a third-degree felony. The teenager called 911 at least twice Tuesday afternoon from a landline phone at the junior high to report that a 14-year old was in the school with a gun, said Clearfield Police Sgt. Kyle Jeffries.

Police now believe that the 911 calls were pranks. The 13-year-old student could also face disciplinary action from the school district, which could include suspension.

The first call came in at 2:24 p.m., and officers arrived at the school at 2:27. Clearfield police sent out a request for all available officers from neighboring agencies to respond, Jeffries said. In all, more than 80 officers arrived at the school within minutes after the first 911 call.

"The caller said in almost a whisper, 'He's got a gun. I can't talk,' before hanging up," Jeffries said. "In light of today's events around the country, we do not take these calls lightly, and that is why we responded the way we did."

After students were evacuated from the school, several students asked police officers if they could talk to them about what they heard and saw. All the students reported only one student had made the phone calls.

Police later said a search produced no weapon.

Local police agencies have been training since the Columbine massacre in Colorado in 1999 that left 12 students and one teacher dead, Jeffries said.

The cooperation among all the agencies went smoothly, he said.

North Davis Junior High, South Clearfield Elementary School and Clearfield High School were all placed into lockdown mode.

Despite the smooth execution of lockdown protocol by faculty and emergency personnel, the lockdown and ensuing evacuation proved to be a nerve-racking experience for teachers, parents and students at the three schools.

"It was kind of scary," said Tonya Camden, who was involved in the lockdown at South Clearfield Elementary. "But we went into lockdown procedure, and everything went really well."

Access to parking lots and to 1000 East, as well as eastbound traffic on 700 South from State Street, was closed. Traffic was also diverted on State Street in front of the school for a short time.

Officers from Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Sunset, Clinton, Roy, Riverdale, Davis County Sheriff's Office and Utah Highway Patrol arrived at the scene. Once there, they were divided into groups of four to search the school.

Officers have trained in the schools and "know every hiding spot," said Christopher Williams, district spokesman.

Tanner Hunsaker, an eighth-grade student at North Davis Junior High School, described what it was like as he and his classmates awaited help while being kept on lockdown.

"We just sat and hid," he said. "We were pretty scared."

Police and SWAT officers charged into his classroom room with "guns drawn" to search for the suspected potential shooter, Hunsaker said.

Reverse emails and phone calls were placed to parents as soon as police were able to assure everyone there was no threat to anyone inside the school, Williams said.

Students were evacuated to South Clearfield Elementary, where parents were told they could pick up their children. Buses also were there to take students home.

Some students were visibly upset by Tuesday's events.

With tears still wetting her cheeks, seventh-grader Trinity Gores said the lockdown was a frightening experience.

When the principal came over the intercom, announcing the initiation of a lockdown, "everyone started screaming and ran away to the corners of the room," she said.

Trinity's mother, Sara Gores, said she was worried about the safety of her two children, both in the junior high school at the time of the lockdown, and was frustrated that she had not been notified of the scenario sooner.

"I'm furious that my children had to call me and that there was no kind of email or phone call to notify me that my kids were in possible danger."

Jeffries said officers worked as fast as possible to make sure the school was safe before they evacuated classrooms one by one out of one door on the west side of the building.

He knows many parents received text messages and phone calls from their children, but officers who were guarding the perimeter did not know what was going on in the school.

"Also this is not the time for students to think this is a joke and jump out and do fast gestures at officers," he said. "This is not a fun day, but a serious one."

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