By Cathy Logg
MARYSVILLE — Parents of fifth-grade students arrived at Kellogg Marsh Elementary School Wednesday anticipating their children’s graduation ceremony. Instead, they found the school and nearby Cedarcrest School in lockdown after several students on the playground reported seeing a man armed with a gun threatening to shoot students.
But authorities found no sign of the man, despite an extensive search by police and a Snohomish County sheriff’s K-9 unit, Marysville police Cmdr. Rob Lamoureux said.
No one was injured during the midday lockdown or resulting confusion.
|In case of emergency
Marysville School District lockdown procedures:
The incident did disrupt the routines of hundreds of families and caused a momentary, yet controlled panic. As a result, Kellogg Marsh officials postponed the fifth-grade graduation ceremony. Parents were delayed in picking up their children and buses were delayed in dropping off youngsters at home. About 1,550 students at the elementary and middle schools remained in their classrooms for more than two hours during the lockdown.
Four Kellogg Marsh students reported seeing a man with a silver handgun outside the playground fence, according to Lamoureux and Mary Fears, the Marysville School District spokeswoman.
"He showed them what he said was a gun. He told them he was going to shoot them and then call the police," Lamoureux said.
The children described the man as an adult with red hair and an orange shirt. He was in a wooded area on the school’s south side.
School and district leaders, including superintendent Richard Eisenhauer, talked with the Kellogg Marsh students.
"One little girl said she saw a man with what she thought was a gun, and the man said something to her. What he said, I don’t know," Fears said.
School officials immediately went into lockdown and notified police, Fears said. Due to concerns that the man might head toward Cedarcrest, police ordered that school into lockdown as well.
While the police search didn’t locate a gunman, investigators haven’t decided whether it was a false alarm.
"You want to take the kids for their word," Lamoureux said. "We’d rather be safe than sorry. We’re still going to err on the side of caution and treat it as factual information."
Today, on the last day of the school year, a police officer will be assigned to Kellogg Marsh "just for peace of mind," Lamoureux said.
Investigators will again interview the four students — three girls and a boy — who reported seeing the gunman. Those interviews should help police obtain more specific details, he said.
The lockdown began during the noon hour when first- and second-grade students were on the playground at Kellogg Marsh.
According to a playground supervisor, 10 to 15 children were in the area where the four students said they saw the man.
At one point, officers were focused on a house in the neighborhood, and school officials said an individual was seen entering a house between Kellogg Marsh and Cedarcrest. Lamoureux didn’t have details on why officers were interested in that house.
An afternoon kindergarten bus with youngsters aboard was diverted to the school district office, where a teacher supervised the youngsters in the boardroom. Their parents were called at home and allowed to pick up their children, provided they had identification.
Parents arrived at Cedarcrest and Kellogg Marsh to find the driveways blocked off by school and police vehicles. Soon, cars jammed nearby streets as droves of fretting parents waited, eager to find their children.
Once the lockdown had ended, one parent was allowed inside the school for each child, but they had to show identification. Also, school personnel took pictures of the children and parents before they left.
At Kellogg Marsh, they formed an orderly line to have their identification checked. Twenty anxious parents were allowed in at a time.
Melissia Campbell feared she and her husband, Scott, had missed son Chris Smith’s graduation ceremony.
Campbell had never seen a school lockdown before "except on TV," she said tearfully. "I know the kids have told me they’ve practiced this. I just want to get my son and take him home."
When Chris, 11, and Scott walked out of the school, Campbell opened her arms wide and smothered Chris in a big hug. Chris said his class passed the time watching a movie and playing Huckle Buckle and Heads Up-Seven Up.
"They told us to stay calm and be quiet," he said.
John Maxwell picked up his son, Daniel, 11, who said he felt safe inside the school. His class watched a Dr. Seuss movie.
"We went under our desks, and our teacher gave us something to do, and we had to take a nap down there because our teacher thought they were going to come into our room," said 6-year-old Kali Burnside. "He covered all the windows up."
Her brother, Mitchell, 11, a fifth-grader, said his class was outside eating pizza to celebrate their pending graduation. Teachers lured the students back inside by telling them there was a surprise there, several youths said.
"Finally, people figured out it was a lockdown and rumors were being passed," Mitchell said. "The air conditioning was not on and it was real hot. We could only get one drink of water each. Then I went and filled my water bottle. I wasn’t supposed to. I shared it with others. We had to stay in there for two hours and 15 minutes."
As some parents retrieved their children and began to leave, other parents still waiting in line began to relax and chat among themselves.
"You see all these happen to other schools," said Linda Masters, another parent anxiously awaiting her daughter, Jessica, 11. "You never think it’ll happen to yours."
Reporter Eric Stevick contributed to this report.
You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437
or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.