Schools locked down due to reported gunman
Berkeley Springs High School and Widmyer Elementary School were locked down at dismissal time on Monday due to a call reporting that a gunman was attempting a burglary in the area.
The threat of a gunman was later determined to be unfounded and not creditable, said Sheriff Vince Shambaugh. However, police continued their investigation and their presence in the schools’ neighborhood into the evening to allay any concerns.
There was never any danger to students at either school, Shambaugh said. The lockdown was a precaution.
The Sheriff’s Office received a call at 2:50 p.m. on December 17 reporting that a lone gunman was trying to rob a home on Greenway Drive, near the cemetery.
Due to the proximity of the schools and the seriousness of the complaint, Deputies Cliff Cobern and Chris Roper immediately advised School Prevention Resource Officer Kevin Barney, Shambaugh said.
Deputy Barney initiated a lockdown at both the high school and elementary school in case an armed person might approach school property. Students were kept inside school buildings in lockdown mode while police investigated.
Sheriff Shambaugh, State Trooper J. McDonald, Sheriff’s Investigator Lieutenant Tim Stapleton and Town Police Chief Craig Pearrell had arrived on the scene by then.
Some officers took reports and searched the immediate area, while others, along with school staff, searched the high school campus and gymnasium with a canine unit to make sure no one had entered any of the buildings.
Lt. Stapleton interviewed the caller, who gave a sketchy description of the suspect. They thoroughly searched the surrounding area, but no one was found. Neighbors had not seen anyone at the scene of the complaint.
Students were permitted to board their school buses and go home around 3:30 p.m.
Shambaugh said they took all steps to ensure that students were safe. The Sheriff’s Department has several contingency plans for these types of events and deputies train several times a year to counter such threats.
Shambaugh said that he would rather err on the side of caution in this type of situation. He said everyone involved “did a magnificent job in ensuring the safety of Morgan County’s children.”
Shambaugh said they responded to related calls from worried residents and also searched abandoned homes and outbuildings in that section of town.
School officials cancelled evening events at the high school as a precaution.