Police provide details on Appoquinimink schools lockdown

MIDDLETOWN – Shortly after Middletown High School and the surrounding area was deemed clear of explosives, suspects and/or firearms Thursday afternoon, Delaware State Police released details of the threats and law enforcement’s response as the investigation continued.

Earlier in the day, with the sequence beginning at approximately 12:32 p.m., two threatening calls regarding the school prompted a large law enforcement response and led to the eventual placement of all Appoquinimink School District schools on lockdown status, spokesman Master Cpl. Michael Austin said.

Initially, a call was placed to MHS indicating an unknown man was heading to the school with a bomb. School administration and the School Resource Officer were immediately notified, police said, and a lockdown commenced.

Roughly 10 minutes later, an unknown man called a dispatch center claiming to be in possession of a rifle near MHS.

As a precaution, all district schools went on lockdown, though the only known threats involved MHS, police said. Eventually, schools were on lockdown for approximately 90 minutes.

The perimeter around MHS was secured and a search began. State Police were assisted by Middletown, Delaware City and New Castle County Police, the Department of Natural Resources K-9 Unit and the Delaware River & Bay Authority.

According to Cpl. Austin in a news release, “A systematic search of the interior and exterior of Middletown High School, which included the utilization of multiple Explosive Detection K-9 teams proved negative for any suspicious objects or explosive devices.

“The surrounding area of the school was also searched on foot by multiple law enforcement officers as well as by air by the Delaware State Police helicopter. This search was also negative for any type of suspicious object, person or weapon.”

During the response, police said, Del. 299 was closed between Silver Lake and Brick Mill roads.

The school district sent out two updates to the public via email and phone calls during the incident. Area daycares also went into lockdown mode.

At the same time, a report of an incident at nearby Redding Middle School surfaced, but was immediately assessed as unfounded by police already there providing perimeter security. By 2:30 p.m., authorities had deemed the schools safe, and all campuses except MHS dismissed students on time. A “staged” dismissal at the high school began about 15 minutes later, school officials said. Afterschool activities were canceled.

The school district described the MHS dismissal as “bringing buses on campus to load in a staggered fashion in order to allow police to provide tight security.”

Once students and staff vacated the school, State Police searched the building and campus again as a “precautionary measure,” Cpl. Austin said. Nothing suspicious was located, police said.

Police asked anyone with information on the incident to contact Detective M. Evans at MHS at 376-4141 by following the prompts. Authorities said information can also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or online at www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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