False active shooter alert prompts school lockdown

   On Wed. Sept. 8 at approximately 9:30 a.m. the intercom sounded “Lockdown, lockdown.” Prompting this announcement was a 911 call was made that indicated that there was an active shooter present at the high school. No shots were fired, and after a police investigation, three students were taken in for questioning and no gun was found on the premises.

   As there was no previous notification indicating this was a drill, teachers, students and staff did not expect the sudden announcement. They quickly learned from other students and outside sources, including police scanners and social media, that it was not a drill. 

   “We heard the lockdown announcement, and our teacher told us it wasn’t a drill. I started texting my friends to see if anyone heard anything, and all I heard was that it’s real and [that] someone [was] on the third floor. Eventually students started posting more information about it on social media like Snapchat and Twitter,” Savannah Uphues (11) said. 

   Police from departments all over the county quickly made their way to the high school. Along with the 30 officers on site, the SWAT team was also called in for support. At 11:03 a.m. Dr. Larry Veracco sent out a phone call to all parents.

   “At approximately 9:30 a.m. today, our high school was placed on lockdown after a 911 call was made, two students have been taken in for questioning, no shots were fired, all of our students and staff are safe,” Veracco said. 

   After about an hour in lockdown, an update was issued by the Lake Central News Twitter account. News stations such as WGN and the NWI Times reported on the incident in real time on their websites and Facebook. Parents, students and alumni tuned in to watch the action.

   “While watching the news, I felt nervous but also safe because I knew law enforcement was already there taking care of the situation. Since I just graduated last year, it felt natural for me to be worried that my old high school was in danger. And since my sister still goes there, I’m glad that I was able to see what was happening as it was happening,” Justin Rivera, Schererville, said

   Hundreds of parents lined the streets surrounding the school and filled parking lots in the area after hearing of the threat. Police shut down U.S. Route 41 from 77th Ave. to 85th Ave. shortly after.

   “I was on the third floor. There were a lot of pictures and rumors going around, but when I heard that it was confirmed to be on the third floor it made it even scarier. My dad and a bunch of my friends’ dads came to the school because they were scared,” Paige Reitz (12) said. 

   Around noon, officers began knocking on classroom doors to start patting students and staff down. Members of the SWAT team were armed with guns and shields as they went from floor to floor, assuring the school was safe.

   “Honestly, [getting searched] made me feel less stressed about the whole situation because I knew that due to the searches, they were able to figure out that there were no weapons in [anyone’s] possession and were able to get us out of the school,” Brady Murray (12) said. 

   Plans were made to begin releasing students as police continued clearing classrooms. Buses were lined up along Route 41 by 2:05, ready to take students home. All remaining students were let go by 2:34 p.m. 

   “I felt very relieved when I was finally allowed to leave the school. I didn’t have any connection the whole lockdown so I was finally able to contact my parents once I got into the parking lot, and actually got to see what was really going on. The heavy police presence both put me at ease and made me nervous,” Clarissa Moreno (12) said.

   At 3 p.m., a press conference was held at the St. John Police Department, revealing information on what really occurred at the school. It has been confirmed that the active shooter statement was just a false alarm, and that there was no gun found. As of now, nobody is being held in custody and there have been no charges filed. 

   “The student [in the bathroom] just said he heard [the sound of a gun being racked] and that’s what he reported to our Lake County 911 dispatch. They dispatched it as an active shooter, which was not the case. So we checked the entire bathroom, checked the entire school high and low and never located a gun,” Police Chief Steve Flores said. 

   Following the scare, all activities after school were canceled. Students, teachers and faculty are expected to return to school on Thurs. Sept. 9.