Student in custody after prank call locks down three schools

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

Students and teachers leave the school holding their hands up in front of law enforcement after North Davis Junior High School was placed on lockdown after an apparent person with a gun was in the schoolTuesday, May 28, 2013, in Clearfield.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

CLEARFIELD — A prank call reporting a gunman at North Davis Junior High launched a massive police response Tuesday from law enforcement across Davis County and put three schools into lockdown.

A 13-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the prank call and faces possible charges of making terroristic threats, a third-degree felony, police said.

Clearfield Police Sgt. Kyle Jeffries said the call came from a landline within the school about 2:24 p.m. The caller whispered there was someone in the school with a gun, but he couldn't talk. Two 911 hangup calls also came from the school's phones at about the same time.

Jeffries said police identified the student who made the call thanks to tips from classmates. Investigators were meeting with the boy and his parents Tuesday afternoon.

"It's extremely terrible for all of us," Jeffries said, simultaneously giving thanks for the quick and efficient countywide response. "Not only that, we've got thousands of kids that are crying and upset and worried. … They don't have a clue, and with what they've seen on the news lately, I can only imagine what the kids were thinking."

An estimated 80 officers from police agencies across Davis County heard the call and turned their vehicles toward the school, Jeffries said. The junior high was locked down in minutes, as were neighboring South Davis Elementary and Clearfield High.

Police entered the junior high in teams of four, searching for what they believed at the time was an active shooter, and checked every room in the building. When no shooter was found, they ended the 45-minute lockdown and evacuated the students, classroom by classroom, to an adjoining parking lot where buses and frightened parents were waiting.

As they were escorted from the building, a few students began approaching officers, explaining they had seen their classmate make the call. The small group helped police search the crowd for the student, who likely exited the building as part of the evacuation.

Witnesses were instructed by officers not to talk about what they had seen, but two of them, who were not identified, said later they knew the threat wasn't real.

Other students believed they were truly in danger when an announcement was made within the school that the lockdown was not a drill.

Gavin Durrant, 13, said his classmates were in tears.

"We were in English, and it's a really open classroom," he said. "Our teacher always said she had nightmares about what would happen if a (gunman) came in."

Once the lockdown was lifted, reverse phone calls and emails went out to parents updating them and explaining how to find their children.

Tammi Atwood's twin sons are in eighth grade at North Davis.

"It was terrifying," she said.

Atwood said she heard sirens as she left work that afternoon, and when she learned they were heading to her sons' school, she fought the heavy traffic trying to reach them.

"They just said there were cops everywhere and something about a lockdown, and I came," Atwood said.

Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said area police regularly simulate incidents like Tuesday's lockdown and are familiar with every possible hiding spot within the school's walls.

"They've been in our schools," Williams said. "They know where these places may be, where a shooting may be hiding. It just bodes well for everyone involved. … When it goes down, it's a case of instinct."

Officers have been training to respond to school shootings since the 1999 attack on Columbine High School, Jeffries added.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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