By Lucy Perry
Indiana Central News
Emotions ran high in the community today as law enforcement stormed a northside high school. Ultimately, there was no gunman, no bomb and there were no hostages -- as an at-large suspect alleged at the time.
Mothers wrought with worry, some with tears in their eyes, arrived shortly before the special response and SWAT teams --- moments after news spread that the Terre Haute Police Department received a call by a now-wanted suspect threatening to have a gun and explosives inside North High School on Maple Avenue, around 10:30 a.m. By noon, many angry family members were questioning the process and some said they were unhappy about finding out about the threats from local news sources.
THPD and Vigo County School officials periodically updated the growing crowds of hundreds gathered at the scene -- which seemed to ease much of the stress with the parents. THPD Chief John Plasse responded, "My kid is in there, too" when one parent yelled out he wanted to know about his "kid." Plasse and THPD Public Information Officer Ryan Adamson addressed the crowd a few times during the ordeal, reassuring the parents that the school was secure and the students safe.
At a press conference held later in the day, after students were dismissed after 2:30 p.m., Plasse noted that most in the community realized the situation required time in order to prioritize students' safety. The main goal in the search of the school and the relocation of students to the gymnasium was to ensure their safety, preparing for an orderly dismissal.
"No one was injured, thank God," Plasse said. "As far as the investigation, that part is still ongoing. We're going to work that until we bring whoever did this to justice -- because it put a lot of people in fear, a lot of students in fear. And, a lot of people in our community just didn't know what to do,' Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said.
Multiple agencies worked the scene, including the Vigo County Sheriff's Office, Terre Haute Fire Department, FBI, Indiana State Police and many agencies from surrounding counties. Director of Vigo Co. School Corp. Security Tom Balitewicz explained the law enforcement officers were all "very familialr with the building" due to training on site, and that was a plus today.
"They were extremely familiar with that building -- and familiar with the tactics they needed to employ to make sure that they were very thorough in that building," he said. He thanked the principal, staff and students for their patience during the situation.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said he is proud of the teamwork of public safety in the community, agreeing with Plasse that the most important aspect was that no one was hurt.
"The school corporation was clearly prepared. Anything can happen at anytime, and here in Terre Haute, Indiana , we saw that today," Bennett said, thanking all the assisting officers.
Vigo County Schools Superintendent DannyTanoos emphasised how important safety is to the corportation. He noted that the Terre Haute Police Department responded within two minutes of the call. He said that all officials have done extensive training and what he witnessed today was a "textbook response."
"The parents were understanding, the kids were fantastic. I think that's a credit to Principal (Robin) Smith and her staff," Tanoos said, adding that he understands that many parents were upset during the lengthy situation.
He agreed with Plasse that the he'd like to see the suspect in custody.
" A lot of fear was put in the hearts of people who don't deserve that today," Tanoos said.
THFD Chief Jeff Fisher explained how he had stood outside with the crowd and law enforcement offficers and witnessed the frustration many parents were expressing, thinking nothing was being done inside.
"They didn't realize that there were 40 to 50 to 60 law enforcement officers inside the building, doing their job. This is why we train. It's when we have an incident like this, that we go in and do what we train for -- and it was a good outcome," Fisher said.
Public Information Officer Ryan Adamson noted the importance of credible information on social media. He encourages the community to follow officials via social media to dispel rumors circulating.
Call the Terre Haute Police Department at (812) 238-1661 with information regarding the school threats.
© Indiana Central News. All rights reserved. Terre Haute, Indiana
News Writer: Lucy Pery PHONE: 317-527-4141