Lock­down scare

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - BLANTON SMITH AND LEIGHTON KEITH

‘‘We’re all ba­si­cally pretty scared be­cause there’s some guy run­ning around with a gun.’’

Nikki Hall

Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing links be­tween two armed call­outs in Strat­ford af­ter the high school was put into lock­down fol­low­ing re­ports of a gun tot­ing man on its grounds.

Armed po­lice sur­rounded the Taranaki school about 8.20am on Thurs­day morn­ing, stop­ping peo­ple com­ing in or out for three hours, fol­low­ing the re­port of the armed man.

Chil­dren and teach­ers were forced to stay in­side class­rooms while of­fi­cers and po­lice dogs searched the area. No of­fender was lo­cated. Po­lice are cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing links be­tween this in­ci­dent and an­other on Tues­day night when a re­port of an armed man scram­bled po­lice on a fruit­less search in Strat­ford.

Sergeant An­drew Russ con­firmed the of­fender had not been lo­cated in the search of the high school but said in­quiries were on­go­ing.

‘‘We’ve searched the en­tire school, ev­ery sin­gle room, ev­ery­thing in it and we haven’t been able to find any­one at all match­ing the de­scrip­tion he ini­tially gave us,’’ Russ said.

‘‘We are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing it re­ally, we are still look­ing into it. There’s many pos­si­bil­i­ties with this and it will just take time to work through in the com­ing days.’’

At the school on Thurs­day morn­ing anx­ious par­ents and rel­a­tives lined the streets at the cor­dons pa­tiently wait­ing for news from their loved ones.

There were group hugs and tears shed when cor­dons were cleared and the lock­down was lifted about 11.20am.

Par­ent Nikki Hall said she was over­come with emo­tion to see her 14-year-old daugh­ter.

‘‘I just cried and held her in my arms,’’ she said.

Hall had been wait­ing at the cor­don’s edge since hear­ing about the lock­down.

‘‘We’re all ba­si­cally pretty scared be­cause there’s some guy run­ning around with a gun,’’ she said ear­lier in the day.

Kelsi Bai­ley, 16, said she had just walked into the school grounds when she heard there was a gun­man.

‘‘I was scared but then I just calmed down.

‘‘It was def­i­nitely a shock.’’

Bai­ley said an armed po­lice of­fi­cer checked the class­room where they were.

‘‘He told us to get down and stay quiet.’’

Tama Small­man said he was re­lieved to see his mother, Rochelle Gut­sell, af­ter the or­deal.

‘‘It’s good.’’

The 13-year-old and a group of his friends had just got to school as the armed po­lice con­verged on the scene.

He said they were ush­ered into a class­room by a teacher. ‘‘She said to be quiet.

‘‘She said there’s a gun­man in the school grounds.’’

Small­man said stu­dents were wor­ried.

‘‘Most of them were shak­ing.’’ Gut­sell said it had been fright­en­ing for par­ents who had not been able to con­tact their chil­dren.

‘‘The hardest part for me was just stand­ing there not know­ing much about what was go­ing on,’’ she said.

Carol Bur­roughs said her 16-yearold son Isaac and 14-year-old son John had just ar­rived at the school on the bus when po­lice re­sponded to re­ports of a gun­man.

‘‘I just raced in from Mid­hirst. ‘‘It’s kinda scary re­ally.’’ Bur­roughs had re­ceived a text from Isaac say­ing he and John was safe but he didn’t know when they would be able to leave, she said.

The school had posted on its Face­book page let­ting par­ents know their chil­dren would not be able to con­tact them un­til the lock­down had ended.

Strat­ford High School prin­ci­pal Philip Keenan said stu­dents were calm and co­op­er­a­tive dur­ing the in­ci­dent, and the school’s lock­down pro­cesses were ef­fec­tive.

‘‘Stu­dents who had ar­rived to school were ac­com­pa­nied by staff and quickly moved into safe ar­eas within the school. Stu­dents who were ar­riv­ing to school were di­verted ei­ther to home or to a su­per­vised safe lo­ca­tion.’’

‘‘The school val­ues the pos­i­tive re­spect they re­ceived from the com­mu­nity and ap­pre­ci­ates their on­go­ing sup­port to stu­dents and staff. Ad­di­tional sup­ports will be avail­able to the school com­mu­nity,’’ Keenan said.

He said no­body was phys­i­cally in­jured and school would be back to nor­mal to­day.

PHO­TOS: GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Re­ports of a gun­man saw po­lice sur­round Strat­ford High School.

Strat­ford High School went into lock­down.

Po­lice searched the school thor­oughly.

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