Pickerington Times-Sun

Sheriff investigates threatening call that prompted lockdown of schools

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The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office is continuing its investigation of a recent telephone threat that resulted in the Aug. 27 lockdown of buildings throughout the Pickerington Local School District.

As of press time, there had been no arrests stemming from an Aug. 27 phone threat at Pickerington High School North.

"We're trying to track down leads," said Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen.

Sheriff's deputies and troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol were sent to North around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27 after an unknown caller threatened to come to the high school and shoot kids.

There was no incident following the call, but there were tense moments that led the district to lockdown each of its school buildings for the remainder of the day and cancel afternoon kindergarten classes and evening activities.

Additionally, law enforcement officials from the sheriff's office, highway patrol and the Pickerington Division of Police were on guard that afternoon as students from each building board buses and left school grounds at the close of the school day.

Phalen said the call to North was received about 11:15 p.m. Aug. 27 from an individual with a "heavy accent" who sounded like an adult.

The person identified his first name as "Mohammed" and Phalen said the last name given "sounded something like Jihad."

"He indicated he was upset about what was going on in Israel and he was going to come to the school and shoot some kids," Phalen said.

"He indicated he lived in the area and he had an assault weapon."

After the call, no one was permitted to enter or exit the buildings, and afternoon kindergarten classes were canceled, said Pickerington Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson.

Browning-Thompson later Aug. 27 posted a message on the district's website stating school officials were following procedures to keep students safe.

"I would like to commend our students for their cooperation and our staff for their quick action and caring for the children," Browning-Thompson stated.

"As a parent, I know that many of you were concerned about your child's safety today. The safety of your children is our No. 1 priority.

"We have well thought out plans of action that we implement during a threat or a crisis. In this situation the plan was to lock down."

Phalen said his office was taking the threat seriously, but noted he suspected the call was a hoax.

"Historically, they always are," he said. "I've been in service more than 40 years and responded to hundreds of threats and I've never had one that's legitimate."

Browning-Thompson also noted that parents could receive information from the district regarding future security alerts and other business through a variety of methods.

"When we need to communicate to our parents immediately, we utilize the One Call Now system," she said. "This is a phone calling system and it takes time for all phone numbers to be dialed.

"Social media is sometimes a faster and easier means of communicating. You can follow Pickerington Local School on twitter (@PLSD) or like us on Facebook at We Are Pickerington," Browning-Thompson said.

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