Were At Schools
BY KEN LITTLE
A phoned-in report to Greeneville police about 7 a.m. today about an alleged man with a rifle in the area of Greeneville Middle School, Hal Henard Elementary School and Takoma Regional Hospital is likely unfounded, authorities said this morning.
The report prompted lockdowns at the schools and the hospital.
The search had been suspended as of about 10 a.m. today, Greeneville police said.
No one matching the description given in the report was located as officers responded to the area in force about the time parents were dropping off their children for school.
They were met at the back entrance to the middle school by an armed Greeneville officer and a school official, who ushered them inside.
The same procedure was followed at Hal Henard Elementary and at the Greeneville Adventist Academy, at 305 Takoma Ave., as school officials ensured that students were quickly escorted into the schools, under the watchful eyes of police officers
Greeneville Middle School, Hal Henard Elementary and Greeneville Adventist Academy were all put on lockdown status after the report was made.
Dr. Linda Stroud, director of the Greeneville City School System, said that she received the alert around 7:20 a.m.
"Everything's fine," she said.
The lockdown at the two city schools was lifted about 8:20 a.m.
Stroud, on location at Hal Henard Elementary School, said police were searching the area as principals and school security were greeting children and escorting them into the buildings.
The Greeneville Adventist Academy remained in lockdown at 9 a.m. today as a precautionary measure, Principal Randy Nomura said.
Earlier, Nomura assisted other school employees and police in ensuring that students entered the school safely.
"[Police] were here about 7:20 a.m. and asked us to go into a lockdown and make sure everything is secure," Nomura said.
Parents were called and notified of the situation, he said.
Smaller children in the 64-student K-12 school were taken to the library for their protection, Nomura said.
Greeneville police and several Tennessee Highway Patrol cars cruised the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital and the schools, looking for any suspicious activity. No one had been located as of 10 a.m.
AT GREENEVILLE MIDDLE
As parents were dropping their children off at Greeneville Middle School, an announcement made to students over the school intercom system could be heard outside.
The announcement advised students to stay in their classrooms, reassured them that they were safe and told them to "take a deep breath" because "we're all OK."
One mother dropping off her daughter at the middle school this morning voiced sentiments many parents are feeling in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown. Conn., in December.
"It was terrifying. I have second-guessed myself today whether I should have dropped her off in those conditions," she said. "It is still scary dropping a child off to an armed guard."
Takoma Regional Hospital went into a lockdown mode after the initial report was received by police, but the lockdown was lifted by 9 a.m. today.
"Takoma did go on lockdown as a precautionary measure. There was no evidence the [reported] man went into the hospital," spokesman Jim Wozniak said.
Takoma Regional Hospital went into a full lockdown mode at 7:20 a.m. after being advised to do so by Greeneville police, hospital spokeswoman Tina Chudina said.
The lockdown was lifted about an hour later, but the hospital planned to remain in modified lockdown status all day, just as a precaution, Chudina said.
Visitors to the hospital shouldn't notice any differences.
"It means we will have a security guard in place at the Takoma Medical Associates building across from the middle school, and a security guard will be wandering around on our campus," Chudina said.
Staff writers Kristen Buckles and Sarah Gregory contributed to this report.