South Portland High School (SPHS) went into lockdown this morning while the South Portland Police Department (SPPD) investigated a suspicious individual seen near the entrance to the building with an item believed at the time to be a weapon.
The individual was intercepted by the school resource officer before entering the building and was then apprehended. It was later determined that the individual was unarmed.
Officials from both SPHS and the SPPD asserted that the person in question was not connected to SPHS, either as a current or former student.
No staff or students were harmed during this morning’s incident, and the lockdown appears to have been lifted between 11am and 11:30am. At 11:45am, students were sent home for the remainder of the day.
The SPPD Facebook page stated this morning that “no one has been harmed,” and the police did “not believe there is a current threat.”
The posting, made shortly before 11am this morning, indicated that SPHS was in lockdown “while officers investigate.”
“We understand the concerns of parents and we please ask for your patience while we handle this matter,” SPPD said on Facebook, adding that updates would be provided “when available.”
Shortly after this, SPPD posted that “the high school is in the process of removing the lockdown,” and “everyone is safe.”
An update posted on the SPHS website around 11:30am announced alongside SPPD that the lockdown had ended and “all students and staff are safe.”
SPHS also stated that the high school would “be on an early release schedule today,” and buses were scheduled to depart at 11:45am, at which time all students would be dismissed.
South Portland Superintendent Tim Matheney spoke to reporters outside the high school this morning.
Matheney stated that the school was place under lockdown as a result of a suspicious individua approaching the school’s entrance and was believed to be in possession of a weapon, although it was later determined “upon subsequent investigation” that this was not the case.
The individual in question has been apprehended and questioned by the SPPD, according to Matheney.
Matheney then said that their investigation was “successful in finding that there has been no further threat,” and he reiterated that “at no point was a student or staff member in danger in the course of the morning.”
It was also clarified that today’s incident has “no connection whatsoever” to any previous occurrences at the high school, nor with any individual connected to SPHS “to the best of [Matheney’s] knowledge.”
“The individual who came to our entrance had absolutely no connection to the school, either as a current student or former student,” Matheney said.
With regards to the early dismissal, Matheney stated that they’re “acknowledging that it might be best just to wrap up the school day today and have kids head home.”
Kevin Gerrish, Deputy Police Chief, also answered questions from the press this morning.
Gerrish stated that the SPHS school resource officer (SRO) “was made aware” that there was a suspicious individual “outside” the building, and the SRO “saw an item” that “could have possibly been a weapon.”
“The individual was not immediately cooperative which just raised the level of our response,” Gerrish said, adding that the person was immediately taken into custody.
“It was determined that it was not a weapon, but under an abundance of caution, we continued with the lockdown and continued with the investigation,” Gerrish continued.
Gerrish also echoed Matheney’s assertion that “from the information [he had], it was not a student” that approached the school this morning.
This comes as several schools throughout the state have been sent into lockdown in recent weeks as a result of reported threats, both real and perceived.
Last Tuesday, four schools in Kennebec County entered lockdown due to reports of an armed student on the nearby Kents Hill School campus.
Police later reported that the investigation was sparked by an “off-the-cuff comment” made by a student as a “joke,” and a search of the building led the police to determine that the threat was “unfounded.”
On September 14, students at Westbrook High School were sent into lockdown when a student reported to school officials that another student was in possession of a firearm.
School officials were immediately able to locate the 14-year-old male student and recover the weapon, which was later determined to be unloaded.
The student was then taken to the Westbrook Police Department where he was interviewed by investigators and charged with the theft of a firearm and terrorizing. The police also reported notifying the student’s parents.
No additional information regarding this morning’s lockdown at SPHS is available at this time.