High-speed pursuit prompts elementary school lockdown
November 19, 2013
Several hours after a high-speed car chase prompted Jefferson-Scranton Elementary School officials to lock down the school Monday morning, police determined the precautionary measure was no longer needed and children were permitted to play outside the school. Police followed two teenagers who were driving more than 120 mph in a car that had been reported stolen but called off the chase as it approached the school. The driver, who is from Jefferson, was later apprehended, and charges are pending.
Children were playing outside Jefferson-Scranton Elementary School at noon Monday, hopping between a slide and a swing set and back again. The streets were quiet.
Hours before, the students were kept inside their classrooms as part of a lockdown, a precautionary response to a high-speed car chase that began in Webster County at 7:15 a.m. and surpassed 120 mph but was called off shortly before the eluding car drove near the school.
A state Motor Vehicle Enforcement officer - who typically deals with commercial vehicle enforcement - first spotted two teenage boys in a Mitsubishi Galant, which a Jefferson resident reported stolen that morning, driving more than 100 mph in a 55-mph zone near Slifer north of Jefferson in Webster County.
The officer pursued the vehicle, which exceeded 120 mph during the 23-mile chase. The 16-year-old driver of the car refused to stop and sped to the streets of Jefferson.
"They were headed right for a school," Jefferson Police Chief Dave Morlan said.
With that in mind, law officers ceased their pursuit.
"It was about the time kids were going to school, and people were going to work, so for the safety of the public, the chase was canceled," said Capt. Chris Moline with Motor Vehicle Enforcement.
The teens went into a house on South Olive Street in Jefferson - just down the road from where the car was stolen - and the driver, a 16-year-old boy from Jefferson, was later apprehended. He was handed over to Webster County Juvenile Court Services, and charges are pending.
Law officers declined to release the boy's name - even though state law requires them to - but the Daily Times Herald only publishes the names of minors under certain circumstances.
No one was injured during the pursuit. The vehicle's passenger - who also was not identified by officers - has not been charged, Moline said.
Because of the chase's proximity to the elementary school, Morlan contacted officials at Jefferson-Scranton Elementary School and suggested they lock down the school building until law-enforcement officers knew more about what was going on.
Although students were still being dropped off at school at the time, making the lockdown more complicated, the students were ushered in - including middle- and high-school students on buses at the elementary school - and the school's outer doors were kept locked, with someone standing at the door. Elementary-school students who were on a bus at the middle school were kept there until the lockdown was lifted, Jefferson-Scranton Superintendent Tim Christensen said.
The lockdown's main aim was to keep students from leaving and to monitor who entered the building.
The school was locked down for about an hour. Several hours after the chase, Morlan said the threat to the public was gone.
Christensen said that during his seven years as superintendent, he doesn't remember another lockdown at the elementary school, although it has several drills each year to prepare for such an occurrence.
"The key thing was, there was not any incident at all at the school," he said. "They asked us to do this for the kids' safety, but there were never any issues with the school or on school grounds."
Although Motor Vehicle Enforcement was not involved with the lockdown - the suggestion came from the Jefferson Police Department - Moline agreed it was a good idea.
"Considering the safety of those kids, and not knowing what we were dealing with at that point, it was a great call," he said.
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