15-year-old armed with weapons surrenders after schools are locked down
(MCT) — BELLEVILLE — Police took a 15-year-old juvenile into custody Tuesday afternoon following a report of a possibly armed person in the area of the railroad track behind Union School and Lindenwood University, according to police.
Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax said the juvenile, who surrendered to police, had two pellet guns -- one was similar in appearance to a 6mm M4 carbine and the second was a pistol -- and a knife, which were all recovered in the area. The juvenile has been interviewed and released to a parent, Sax said.
The scene was secure at 2:57 p.m. Tuesday, about the same time Union School was to be letting out.
The incident is still being investigated, but there were no reports of shots being fired or any injuries, Sax said.
A swarm of police from Belleville assisted by St. Clair County Sheriff's Department converged on the area about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday. Police were seeking one man, possibly in his teens, wearing all black clothing, carrying what appeared to be a rifle, a handgun and a knife, police said.
Susan McDavid of Belleville said she called police after her adult son, Kristofer, saw a man with what appeared to be a weapon walking on the railroad tracks in the wooded area behind Union School.
"When my son approached him, he (the suspect) put everything down," Susan McDavid said.
Kristofer McDavid said he jumped out of the car he was riding in with his mother and ran after the suspect. McDavid said the man had an assault rifle, sidearm gun and large knife as well as a black backpack. Kristofer McDavid said he hit the suspect in the face and took his photo with a cellphone. The suspect escaped after he was struck.
"I would take a bullet for any one of these kids," Kristofer McDavid said.
After the report, Union School was locked down and officials at nearby Lindenwood University were notified.
At 2:40 p.m. the suspect wearing jeans and a red T-shirt was in handcuffs. He was taken to the Belleville Police Department. There was a heavy police presence behind Union School and near Lindenwood.
Sax said officers were deployed inside Union school and an outside perimeter was established. An extensive search of the school property including Lindenwood and the surrounding area was conducted.
A "Chief's Alert," which is an email alert system used to notify all of the schools in the city was sent to all of the grade schools and to Lindenwood University at 2:27 p.m. Tuesday notifying staff of what information was known at the time, according to Sax.
Law enforcement authorities lifted the lock down at Lindenwood about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday. University officials confirmed evening classes would be held as usual Tuesday night.
Police did a controlled release of the children at Union School just after 3:20 p.m. Dismissal time usually is 2:55 p.m. About three dozen parents waited in the parking lot for their children.
"I'm glad they locked down the school," said Carole Alexander, of Belleville, who has a third-grader at Union.
Alexander said she isn't sure whether she will send her daughter back to school this week.
"I don't feel safe about her coming to school right now," she said.
Bobbi Kadavi, of Belleville, said she was worried when she saw a police presence at the school.
"It's scary picking up your kid and seeing cops after everything that happened in Connecticut," she said.
On Friday, 20 children and six adults were killed during a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Belleville School District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said Union School was locked down at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday as a precaution.
"To my knowledge, there was never any direct threat to students or staff," Klosterman said. He said a message about the incident went out to all family and staff members of the district.
Union School has about 450 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Fourth-grader Gavin Hill, 9, said an announcement was made on the intercom for the teachers to "please secure your room." Hill said his teacher turned off all the lights and gathered the students in the corner of the room.
Hill said he wasn't scared, but "a lot of people were crying."
After the lockdown was lifted, Hill said the students were gathered in the gymnasium and told "everything was all right."
Sax said the investigation has determined there was never any real threat to any of the students or staff; however, law enforcement responded in force until the situation was secured.