Accidental alert triggers lockdown at Harrison Central High School

Armed officers went room to room searching for anything out of the ordinary, but found nothing.
Armed officers went room to room searching for anything out of the ordinary, but found nothing.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 9:46 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 1:44 PM CDT
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HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Officials say the announcement that sent Harrison Central High School into lockdown Thursday morning was an “accidental announcement.” But the response it triggered from law enforcement and emergency officials was very real.

“We were in there taking a test on my first block and then the intercom came on. It was like lock your doors; teachers lock your doors. They said it three times,” said student Alessandrya Anderson. “My teacher turned off the lights and closed the window and she locked the door and made sure it was locked. Then we sat there for a few minutes. We went to the corner and that’s when it got serious. People were just texting and calling, trying to see if they were okay. We were all trying to call our parents and everything.”

Around 9:30 a.m., students and staff were alerted via the intercom the school was going into lockdown.

“Our teacher had us go to the corner of the classroom that you couldn’t see in through the window and put stuff in front of our doors,” said student Alyssa Ellis. “Then we sat there for about an hour with no updates other than rumors floating around. That there was a shooter in different buildings, and that a cop got shot, kids started getting shot and that they had to bring in an ambulance. It was just a bunch of rumors, and nobody really knew what was going on.”

Harrison County School District Superintendent Mitchell King said that the lockdown call was unauthorized and they’re investigating how it was triggered.

“Every time we have an incident like this, we evaluate what we did and how we can do it better,” King said. “If we can make it faster and better for the parents, then we’ll do that because we’re all about notifying the parents. We know what kind of climate that we’re living in, and we know what’s happened in the other states, and even in the state of Mississippi. You know we want to be on top of everything that’s happened. If we’re not doing it to the best of our abilities, we work toward changing that so it will be better.”

Once the lockdown call went out, law enforcement officers arrived at the school to make sure the campus was secure. Armed officers went room to room searching for anything out of the ordinary, but found nothing.

“The response time was absolutely remarkable,” Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said. “I have SROs that are on school grounds all the time during school, so they were there. So, it was four units there. We had the rest of us show up about two minutes later. I can’t thank Gulfport Police Department and Mississippi Highway Patrol, and the deputies that responded enough and for being there on time.”

Once every building was cleared, the school was deemed secure and the lockdown was lifted. During that time, a crowd of parents gathered at the school demanding that their children be released.

“I freaked out,” said parent Beth Hickman. “Any parent would, especially just the other day after what happened at the Christian school. Of course, you’re going to freak out; it’s frightening. And it’s crazy people out there. It’s scary. You think about it every time, especially when it just happened. It’s scary.”

Eventually, they were allowed to pick up their children and leave campus.

King told WLOX that more than half of the student body left school after the lockdown, roughly 1,400 students and 140 staff members.

The sheriff’s department is investigating how the false intercom call was triggered. Detectives are reviewing surveillance footage to see if they can determine who’s responsible for the scare. Peterson stressed any concerns about an active shooter on campus are “completely unfounded.”

Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputies, Gulfport Police, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Stone County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and Homeland Security all responded to the high school within two minutes of the lockdown call. AMR also sent two ambulance units, which were staged at the school. By 10:15 a.m., the medical crews were cleared to leave without any patients.

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