By MARY RAINWATER
A Westwood Independent School District campus was placed on lockdown Tuesday morning following a report of shots fired in the area of Salt Works Road.
At about 9:15 a.m., Palestine police officers responded to the report in the 2300 block of Salt Works Road, located near the WISD elementary school campus on Bassett Road.
Upon arrival, officers detained a black male on school grounds on the playground, who reported that he had been the victim of an aggravated assault in a residential area northeast of the school property.
“The victim was transported by EMS to Palestine Regional Medical Center for a minor injury,” Palestine Police Department Sgt. James Muniz said. “The male did not have a weapon on his person, nor did officers locate a weapon in the surrounding area of the school premises.”
The Palestine Police Department shortly thereafter assisted the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office in an investigation of the activities occurring at a residence in the area, which is believed to be tied to the report of the earlier assault.
“Westwood Elementary officials acted promptly in securing the students while officers were conducting the initial investigation,” Muniz said.
“Once the original scene was cleared, officers received a report that a suspect may be in the area northeast of the school,” Muniz said. “So we called WISD officials again and had them continue the ‘lockdown’ until we could determine that there was no longer a threat.”
The investigation into the aggravated assault is ongoing, and has been turned over to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office due to the offense occurring in their jurisdiction.
In fact, at the time of the first call for the ‘lockdown,’ WISD Superintendent Ed Lyman and school administrators from Westwood campuses were in a meeting to discuss school safety procedures in light of the recent school shooting in Connecticut.
“I was in a meeting with administrators reviewing our procedures as far as upgrading security measures. It’s ironic that there was an incident at the elementary school during that meeting. We immediately dismissed the meeting and administrators were sent back to their appropriate campuses,” Lyman said.
Lyman noted an elementary school teacher had reported someone running toward the school, leading to the ‘lockdown,’ though police had already received the report of shots fired near Salt Works Road.
“The police arrived on the scene almost instantly,” Lyman said. “They continued with a very thorough search of the playground area for the safety of our kids.”
While the first lockdown was just at the elementary school, the second lockdown went campus-wide at Westwood ISD, Lyman said.
“We were in ‘lockdown’ for 45 minutes then received the all clear, then got another call for a ‘lockdown’ and stayed down another 45 minutes,” Lyman said.
The lockdowns scared many WISD parents who are hypersensitive to the recent school shooting in Connecticut, Lyman said.
“It was a little difficult because a lot of parents were concerned and wanted to come in and get their kids. But when we are in a lockdown by police order, we don’t allow anyone in or out for the safety of the children. We are responsible as school officials to keep track of the children, making sure we check them out to the right individuals,” Lyman stressed. “There were police officers, sheriff’s deputies and security personnel all over. The children were safe.”
Lyman commended all the teachers, staff and students at WISD campuses for their cooperation.
“The teachers did their jobs as well as expected in a very nerve-racking situation,” the superintendent said.
Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor reported that the incident began as an assault in the county in which one of those involved was bitten by a dog and then ran to the school campus.
“There were no shots fired and no gun was found,” the sheriff stressed.
The incident is still under investigation.
In addition, Palestine Independent School District received information from WISD administration Tuesday morning that their district was on lockdown, and PISD followed suit and was on lockdown for a short time for the safety of the students.
“Once Palestine ISD received further details from the Palestine Police Department that the situation had been resolved, the Palestine ISD campuses resumed normal operation,” PISD Superintendent Jason Marshall said. “The safety of students and staff is always the first priority of the district and the district will take measures to continue ensuring that appropriate action is taken for the safety of all.”