All Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools spent Wednesday in “soft lockdown” due to a threat of on-campus violence.
Rocky Mount Police Corporal Brad Summerlin said a young man called 911 and made a threat about a school shooting. Summerlin said the caller did not name a specific school, so the entire district entered into the extra security mode.
“When we’re in a soft lockdown, people can come and go in the school. Of course, our senses are heightened that day. In a regular lockdown, no one can go in and no one can go out,” district spokesperson Dr. Patricia Hollingsworth said.
The school system sent alerts to parents. Those who picked up students from school early had to go through additional security as extra officers and deputies came to campuses.
“I got an email and a phone call from Patricia Hollingsworth. I think they did a good job,” Brandy Kannan said. “I just think it’s kind of crazy. Last week, bomb threat, I just think it’s crazy.”
The first notification said:
I am calling to inform you that the Rocky Mount Police Department received a call from an unidentified caller threatening to shoot up a school. The caller did not name a specific school therefore, our entire district is on a soft lock-down as a precaution while police investigate the credibility of the threat. A soft lock-down is when we tightly restrict the movement of students and staff while ensuring all entrances and exits are secure. The Rocky Mount Police Department and the Nash County Sheriff’s Department are working collaboratively with our school system to provide an extra presence at schools. As always, the safety of our students and staff are of the upmost importance to us and we want to keep you informed.
“I was told that there was no emergency, that it was nothing really major going on,” Tammy Benfield said. “I didn’t feel like I had a need to come and run, pick up my child or anything like that.”
Investigators did not find any evidence of credibility for the threat.
Police said a young man used a disconnected cell phone for the call to 911. Cellular carriers have to provide 911 services for all phones, even if the line is no longer in service. Smartphones can also call emergency services from the lock screen without requiring an access code.
Investigators are working to trace the call, which is the most recent a series of pranks that are serious crimes.
“Unfortunately, there have been threats in our area, and I know that some of the other districts have also received threats,” Hollingsworth said. “We take all threats seriously, and it was just to err on the side of safety.”
Administrators and law enforcement hope the severe penalties for making threats against schools will discourage copy cat callers. Goldsboro police identified and arrested a teen for a November 7 threat involving Greenwood Middle School.
Wake County deputies are searching data tied to email and IP addresses used in recent threats against Enloe High School and Sanderson High School.