Reports of an armed gunman at UniTec Career Center Wednesday afternoon took social media by storm, and left police frustrated while trying to secure the area.
Bonne Terre Police Lt. Bill Stegall said the North County School District conducts several intruder drills per year at their campuses. Each building does at least one per year, he said.
“UniTec was doing their drill this morning, at which time the police department and school monitors it,” said Stegall. “At the end of the drill someone came inside and reported they heard two loud pops outside of the building.”
Stegall said this was something that was outside the parameter of what the drill was supposed to be, so as a safety precaution they advised the school to go ahead and do a soft, non-emergency lockdown while they checked the surrounding woods in the area and around the campus itself.
“At no point in time did we find anyone with a gun and at no point in time was anyone ever advised of anyone being on campus with a gun,” Stegall said. “It was just a precautionary measure and it took that long because there is so much property to be checked.”
Stegall said it was reported to them by just one person, but that is enough for them to make certain they don’t take chances.
“We actually went through all those woods that is connected between the school and the roadway down there,” said Stegall. “We have set protocols that in case anything actually does happen, they immediately go into action.”
Stegall explained they would immediately send all sorts of law enforcement, fire and ambulances in that direction when there is a confirmed situation like that. “So it wouldn’t just be the Bonne Terre Police, it's an immediate thing, we don’t even have to ask for it,” said Stegall.
Due in part to all the false information being circulated on Facebook, North County officials contacted parents through their automated system to let them know there was never an intruder on campus. A letter was also sent to parents to inform them the reports on social media were false.
The district stated, "There was no intruder at any time on any campus. However, with the assistance of local authorities, we have ensured the safety of all students and staff. Please know safety and security will always remain our top priority. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.”