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Fireworks incident leads to lockdown of high school
Previous training helped police, school staff respond quickly
March 18, 2013
With the amount of attention given to school safety in the past few months, a recent incident at the Crook County High School requiring lockdown procedures brought the reality close to home.
On Thursday afternoon at approximately 2.43 p.m., the Prineville Police Department received a text message directly from a student at CCHS, indicating that someone was firing a 22-caliber firearm in the parking lot at the high school. Four Prineville Police Department officers responded within two minutes of the message. Crook County Sheriff’s deputies also responded to the scene.
“I saw the police cars come into the parking lot and went outside,” remarked Crook County High School Vice-Principal Michelle Jonas. “I think their response time was very prompt.”
She said that the staff, students, and police took the incident seriously, and handled it quickly. The time from the announcement to lock the school down until staff was given the all clear, was approximately seven minutes.
Jonas believes that the repeated practice of going through the lockdown procedures made a big difference on how everything flowed. The schools go through lockdown procedures at least twice every year, and local law enforcement officials conduct tactical training for worst-case scenarios in the case of an active shooter situation.
“I think that everyone knows that this is a serious matter now, and I think people will take this in a more serious way,” she emphasized.
“As we were responding to the parking lot, we contacted the school officials and recommended that they put the school in lockdown — which they did,” commented Prineville Police Department Chief Eric Bush. “As soon as we determined that there was no danger to anybody, we advised the school staff, and they almost as quickly lifted the lockdown directive,” Bush said.
Prineville Police School Resource Officer Jeff Coffman indicated that when a school goes into lockdown, all classroom doors are locked, students are kept away from windows, and all lights are turned off in the classrooms. Any students who are in common areas are quickly taken to the closest secure area or classroom.
Bush noted that the false alarm turned out to be a person setting off fireworks in the parking lot. According to the City of Prineville Police Department Daily News Release Log for March 14, Stephen Morgenstern, 18, was arrested for Disorderly Conduct in relation to the incident.
“It was fireworks being mistaken for a small caliber firearm, and it’s a pretty common mistake,” added Bush. “It certainly caused some concern amongst all the students who were under lock down, and those who heard about it, of course. As best we can tell, the school was phenomenal, and handled it very well.”
He remarked that the typical response time for his department for an incident such as this is almost always under two minutes. The last lockdown that any staff members at the police department or high school could remember was in 2007. Many of the staff at CCHS remembers the lockdown during that time, which was also in the front parking lot. It also went very well as a result of repeated drills with students and staff.
One former staff remembers, “We (my class) were in the top level overlooking the parking lot, and we had the directive to lock down our classroom. We could see police cars out the window, and parts of the parking lot were taped off with crime scene tape. The experience was frightening, and we knew something serious had occurred. The staff’s main objective was keeping our students safe and following the procedures we had practiced.”
Bush added that it is rare for the schools to go to the extent of locking down the building, but, “Clearly, they are prepared to.”
"A special thank you to our local police and deputies who responded so quickly to this situation, and I want to offer praise to the high school staff and students for the effective and timely lockdown procedure," commented Crook County School District Superintendent Duane Yecha on Thursday afternoon.