FINAL UPDATE: FBI works with Summit County Sheriff’s Office in wake of threat alluding to bomb, AR-15 rifle made to high school Monday
Sheriff explains process of dealing with threat while communicating with public during district-wide lockdown
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information from school and law enforcement officials.
Law enforcement discovered no danger to students or staff at Summit County schools after a threatening call led to a district-wide lockdown Monday morning, Feb. 6, according to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Around 9:20 a.m., a caller reported they were outside the high school and armed with a bomb and AR-15 rifle, Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. But law enforcement were quickly able to determine nobody was there.
“The school resource officer was there and obviously knew no one was standing there,” FitzSimons said.
Still, a thorough search of the interior and exterior of the high school had to be completed, and the building remained on lockdown until around 1 p.m., when law enforcement personnel completed the search, according to the sheriff.
Other schools in the district also entered lockdown as a precautionary measure, FitzSimons said. Law enforcement officers set up a perimeter around the high school to ensure that students were safe and no one entered or exited the building during the search, he said.
No one was injured in the incident.
With the help of the FBI, law enforcement officers are investigating who made the threat. It is the second threat in less than two weeks that has prompted a security response at Summit County schools.
In a separate incident late last month, police arrested a Glenwood Springs man after he allegedly posted threats to Summit Daily’s Instagram page. That man remains in the Summit County jail on a $100,000 bond.
‘Everybody is safer’
When the Sheriff’s Office and the school district first notified the public of the threats at Summit High School, they told parents not to come to the school to pick up their children. FitzSimons said that instruction was for everyone’s safety.
“Always follow the directions of law enforcement,” he said. “Because you’ve got to know we know more — we may not be able to tell you the details of what is going on — but we give specific directions because we feel it is the safest path.”
Law enforcement responses such as these can require a lot of resources, FitzSimons said, and when people congregate at the scene of an emergency, it can create “an incident within an incident.”
Having parents arrive at the school while officers are still conducting a search and assessing the situation can add to the chaos of the situation and draw resources away from addressing the emergency, he said. At one point Monday morning, more than 15 law enforcement units from the Sheriff’s Office had been deployed to the high school.
“It just diverts resources that we don’t have,” FitzSimons said. “It makes their children less safe.”
Still, FitzSimons — who raised two children through the Summit School District — said he knows what it is like to be a parent concerned about the safety of their children.
“As a parent you feel you are the only one who can protect your child,” FitzSimons said. “So I completely empathize with the parents. We’re just asking for the trust that we’re doing everything to keep the children safe.”
FitzSimons said he also understands parents’ frustrations when it comes to communication from school officials and law enforcement about what is happening. But he noted that officials often have their hands full while dealing with emergency situations.
“It is important for parents to realize, communication is never timely, and it’s never the right amount of words or the right words,” he said. “But everybody is doing the best they can in the moment, balancing response and communication.”
When the public remains calm and follows instructions from law enforcement, “everyone is safer,” FitzSimons said.
As law enforcement responded to the threatening call Monday morning, a misleading image began circulating online, adding to the already tense situation at the schools.
The image showed a man in dark clothing carrying a gun outside the school. But, according to FitzSimons, the photo was of a law enforcement officer — not an active shooter.
BREAKING: Summit schools are on lockdown this morning after a threat was made to the high school. https://t.co/n4F3wmuCTm— Rob Tann (@RobTann) February 6, 2023
“That stuff is so hard to control, and once it gets started, you talk about creating more stress for parents,” FitzSimons said. “It’s tough. I don’t know how to prevent it. Other than parents talking to their kids about it.”
The sheriff suggested that anyone who encounters an unverified image online — such as the one circulated Monday — not continue to share it.
“It is not helpful in these situations,” FitzSimons said. “Especially when you’re in the middle of investigating an active threat.”
Rather than continue to circulate a misleading or unverified post, he suggested sending it to law enforcement or tagging the Sheriff’s Office.
‘We all work really well together’
As the situation unfolded Monday morning, FitzSimons coordinated the law enforcement response from the same room as school officials. For several hours, Sheriff’s Office personnel and Summit School District leaders huddled around a table at the Summit County Emergency Operations Center in Frisco, coordinating the law enforcement response, security protocols and communications with parents.
“We were there with school officials working at a table in one room, which was really beneficial,” FitzSimons said.
While in the past, school officials and law enforcement have set up separate command posts, this setup allowed for increased communication and coordination, the sheriff said. He added that the response by the Sheriff’s Office on Monday shows the importance of school resource officers.
When the threat was first reported, the school resource officer stationed at the school initially coordinated the response, FitzSimons said, and was already on scene if there had been an active shooter or other emergency.
“You can’t deny the value of that,” he said.
Moreover, behind the scenes, the Sheriff’s Office has done a significant amount of work with the school district officials to prepare for situations like this, FitzSimons said. And other public safety agencies in Summit County are also prepared to respond, he said.
“In today’s world, these active threats are becoming more and more frequent,” FitzSimons said. “All the law enforcement and fire districts here in Summit County, we all work really well together and are responsive to each others’ need.”
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