GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Police shot and killed a “suspicious person” they said was attempting to enter an Alabama school, law enforcement confirmed Thursday morning.
A man identified as Robert Tyler White, 32, of Bunnlevel, North Carolina, arrived at Walnut Park Elementary in Gadsden around 9:30 a.m. Thursday and tried to gain entry to vehicles and buildings on-site, Etowah County Sheriff Jonathan Horton said.
A school resource officer who also works for Rainbow City police responded and called for assistance from other law enforcement. A physical altercation ensued, police claimed, and the suspect was shot and killed. The resource officer, officials said, received minor injuries.
Police have not said whether the man was armed.
Tony Reddick, Superintendent of Gadsden City Schools, said he received an urgent call from the principal of Walnut Park.
“I got a call from the principal who’s really distraught, and I really couldn’t make out what was happening,” he said. “But I knew it was something pretty bad.”
Watch Superintendent Reddick’s interview here
Reddick hurried to the school and when he arrived, the man who’d been trying to enter the school was already on the ground, shot by law enforcement.
Reddick said that the school system is vigilant in preparing for events like these. He and the school’s principal, he said, had just participated in a seminar that included school safety training on Monday.
Police had advised members of the public to avoid the area around Walnut Park Elementary in Gadsden due to an incident Thursday morning. Photos showed a heavy police presence in the area, but little information was initially provided by law enforcement. In a brief statement, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office said that all children at the school are safe.
“All children at Walnut Park School in the City of Gadsden program will use side parking lot beside south 11th and board of education program will be bused to Gadsden City High School,” the statement said. “Please bring identification to pick up children.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) released a statement Thursday evening saying that at the request of the Gadsden Police Department, it is investigating what it termed an “officer-involved shooting.”
“An individual was attempting to make forcible entry into a marked Rainbow City patrol vehicle at which point a School Resource Officer (SRO) with the Rainbow City Police Department attempted to stop the subject,” ALEA’s statement said. “The subject resisted and attempted to take the officer’s firearm.”
ALEA’s statement said the subject “was injured by gunfire,” but the agency never explicitly said an officer shot the man.