Sometimes theings hit very close to home.
Published: Friday, December 19, 2003
Armed man bursts into school
Nine Terrace students treated for pepper spray after his arrest
By Diana Hefley
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE -- An armed man on the run from police burst inside a Mountlake Terrace Elementary School classroom filled with students Thursday before an officer was able to wrestle him to the ground and subdue him with pepper spray.
"It could have been so horrendous," Police Chief Scott Smith said. "The bravery and restraint of the officer saved the day."
No one was seriously hurt. Nine students were taken to Stevens Hospital after being exposed to the spray. Those students were treated and released.
"We feel very fortunate how it all played out," Edmonds School District spokeswoman Debbie Jakala said.
The incident started just before 8:30 a.m. Thursday near 220th Street SW and 52nd Avenue W., where the officer was patrolling the school zone.
The suspect drove by the officer, who ran the Brier man's license plate number and learned he had a suspended driver's license and was wanted for two outstanding warrants, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of stolen property, Smith said.
The officer attempted to stop the man but he drove on and doubled back to the school, where he drove up onto a sidewalk about 10 feet from children. He jumped out of his minivan and ran into a classroom of 20 fifth- and sixth-graders, Smith said.
The officer chased him, noticing the man reaching for something in his waistband, Smith said.
"It's unclear if he was reaching for it or trying to keep it from falling," he said.
The officer tackled the suspect just as he entered the classroom, sprayed him with pepper spray and handcuffed him.
The officer found a fully loaded semiautomatic handgun and a box of ammunition in the man's pants.
The suspect was booked into the Snohomish County Jail under investigation for a felon possessing a firearm and eluding police.
School principal Doug Pierce said it all happened so quickly there was no time for a full lockdown. Pierce saw the man jump from the van and was just calling for teachers to lock their classrooms when the suspect ran into Room 16.
"The teacher had all the kids in the front of the classroom and down on the floor, shielded by the tables," Pierce said. "She was calling 911 while the officer struggled with him."
Pierce said he was impressed with the quick response from police and firefighters. He also said the incident taught him and his staff that their school might need changes to be safer.
Pierce will reconsider keeping the exterior classroom doors locked. The school was built in the 1960s, and classrooms have two doors, one to a main corridor and one to the outside.
"We do lockdown drills but until you're in the middle of situation like this, you don't know if you've missed anything," he said.
Linda Carlson, the grandmother of a sixth-grade girl taken to the hospital, said the incident was disconcerting, but likely unavoidable.
"I felt like our kids were traumatized," she said. "But you can't stop something like this from going on. The first place someone like this is going to go is a school, because that's where you can take the most hostages."
Reporter Victor Balta contributed to this report.
My neice Alexa was one of the students taken to the hospital. Physically she is alright, emotionally well she isn't sleeping at night right now.