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Published: Thursday, 5/26/2005

Riverside Elementary locked down after reports of gunman

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Worried parents wait for their children to be dismissed from Riverside Elementary after five students and three staffers reported seeing a man with two guns in the building. Worried parents wait for their children to be dismissed from Riverside Elementary after five students and three staffers reported seeing a man with two guns in the building.
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More than 400 parents swarmed a North Toledo elementary school yesterday, demanding to take home their children after a young man with two guns was seen briefly in the building by students and staff.

The man, reportedly holding a long-barrel handgun and with a second gun stuffed in his waistband, entered Riverside Elementary through an unlocked door at 11:44 a.m. and was seen by three adults and five children, Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said.

When police arrived four minutes later at the school at 500 Chicago St. and Chase Street, the suspect was already gone and no one was harmed.

Parents escort  their children  from Riverside School Wednesday after reports of a gun being found in the building. Parents escort their children from Riverside School Wednesday after reports of a gun being found in the building.
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"Everyone in the school was put on lockdown, meaning all the doors were locked, and the building was searched," Chief Navarre said. "This is not a hoax. We believe the man did leave the school prior to the arrival of the police."

Police searched the surrounding neighborhood but did not find the suspect, who was described as an 18-year-old, biracial male wearing a blue, button-down shirt. The police department's special tactical unit, which usually responds to hostage situations, was not summoned to the scene because the potential threat was over so quickly.

Uniformed officers will be at the school all day today and tomorrow as a calming precaution, Chief Navarre added.

Television news stations reported during their noon newscasts that a man with a gun was in the building, which drew parents and other family members outside the school.

By 12:20 p.m. almost 300 parents and other family members of children in the school had amassed outside awaiting answers. Additional police units were called to the school for crowd control as relatives - some of whom were emotional and crying, while others were shouting - remained across the street until 12:30 p.m.

Riverside Elementary Principal Jim Gault uses a bullhorn to address worried parents and family members after a man with two guns was seen inside the school. Mr. Gault spent two hours releasing students one-by-one to family members who came to take them home. Riverside Elementary Principal Jim Gault uses a bullhorn to address worried parents and family members after a man with two guns was seen inside the school. Mr. Gault spent two hours releasing students one-by-one to family members who came to take them home.
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When Principal Jim Gault came outside, the crowd rushed past police and gathered around him. He assured the crowd that the children were safe inside. "No one has been shot," he said. "The children are totally safe."

When Principal Jim Gault came outside, the crowd rushed past police and gathered around him. He assured the crowd that the children were safe inside. "No one has been shot," he said. "The children are totally safe."

But parents still demanded to take their students home.

"Let our children out! They'll be safe at home with us," yelled Gregory Pettrey, a father of three daughters in the school.

Worried parents wait for their children to be dismissed from Riverside School Wednesday, after reports of a gun being found in the building. Worried parents wait for their children to be dismissed from Riverside School Wednesday, after reports of a gun being found in the building.
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School officials decided to let parents take their children home. Mr. Gault used a bullhorn to dismiss each child to his or her parent one at a time - a process that took nearly two hours.

Tracy Glenn waited about an hour to get his son from the building. "It makes me feel good that we have him out because we didn't know if they were safe," Mr. Glenn said.

His son, Lamaar Ward, described what happened inside the building: "They locked all the doors," the fourth-grade student said. "Some of us were scared."

At least one of Riverside's doors is left unlocked during school hours, which troubled many parents who said the incident could have been prevented with security locks and cameras.

"I think they should lock all the doors, and they should be able to see who is there with a camera, and then buzz you in," said Chris Rollins, whose sixth-grade daughter attends Riverside.

Toledo Board of Education President Larry Sykes, who was at the scene to help address parents and the media, promised a district-wide review of locks on exterior doors. He credited the school's administration and faculty for locking down the building and later dismissing students in an orderly fashion.

"We have a protection procedure for our children," he said. "We are able to control our buildings."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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