Reports of firearm in backpack, suspicious man in car cause lockdowns at 3 Cedar City schools

In this file photo, a Cedar City Police car is parked in front of Cedar Middle School during a scheduled "active shooter" lockdown drill and training exercise, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News/Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Lockdown orders were issued at three Cedar City schools on Tuesday after a student was reported for potentially possessing a firearm on campus and police also were alerted to the presence of a suspicious man.

This file photo shows Cedar Middle School, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 8, 2022 | Photo by Haven Scott, St. George News

The Cedar City Police Department alerted the community via Facebook of a Level 2 lockdown at Cedar Middle School at 8:35 a.m., promising further information and stating that the students were safe. A Level 1 lockdown was also initiated at Launch High School.

A Level 2 lockdown is when all exterior and interior doors are locked and no one is allowed to enter or exit the building, according to a follow-up post by the Iron County School District.

“Students move to the nearest classroom immediately, teachers clear the hallways and regular classroom activities continue inside the room,” the district wrote.

During a Level 1 lockdown, the exterior doors are locked and no one is allowed to enter or exit while the school functions normally, as previously reported by Cedar City News.

In this file photo, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams addresses the Cedar City Council in response to an incident involving a teen allegedly brandishing a firearm at Canyon View High School, Cedar City, Utah, March 1, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The lockdown was initiated after a student reported to the school resource officer that they heard another teen discussing a gun in their backpack, Police Chief Darin Adams told Cedar City News. The officer spoke with the school’s administration, recommending an immediate lockdown.

“Once that happens, then we can slow things down a little bit and try to gather more information,” he said.

Officers interviewed the student, who couldn’t identify the person talking about the firearm.

“So, that obviously changes how we approach it because we don’t have a suspect,” Adams said. “So do we say, ‘Ok, well, there’s no threat because there’s no suspect and leave it alone? Or … do we go in one by one and search every single backpack in the school until we determine that there’s nothing there?’”

After speaking with the officers at the scene, Adams suggested they speak to the reporting teen again. They learned the students in question were walking behind him, prompting the investigators to check the camera footage in cooperation with school administrators.

In this file photo, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams speaks during Southern Utah University’s “Patriot Day,” Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 9, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

After obtaining the students’ identities, law enforcement called them in for questioning and searched their backpacks, Adams said. No weapons were found. Additionally, the students explained their discussion, which the other teenager reportedly misunderstood.

Police determined there wasn’t a threat and advised the district to lift the lockdown order approximately 45 minutes after it started, Adams said.

In February, police arrested a teen who allegedly physically assaulted a Canyon View High School Student, brandished a gun in the parking lot and made threats to the school on social media, Cedar City News reported.

A lockdown wasn’t ordered until his arrest the following day, and some parents and community members questioned how the situation was handled.

Adams said they managed this lockdown differently for two reasons: the student, in this case, was cooperative, and police are being “more cautious” than before.

“Certainly, on the heels of the Canyon View incident, we’re more aware,” he said. “It’s still raw and fresh.”

The department is working with the district to “improve our response and our communication,” but Adams said he also wants to avoid “swinging that pendulum too far to the other side.”

This file photo shows a Cedar City Police vehicle, Cedar City, Utah, June 3, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Still, Adams advised school resource officers to recommend an immediate lockdown upon receiving any reports of firearms at a school. However, school administrators will make the “ultimate decision.”

While the district is working to improve the parents’ understanding of lockdown procedures, Adams also suggests that they openly communicate with their children about being aware of potential threats and discuss their concerns and how they can be addressed.

Additionally, Adams said that a “big part” of the school resource officer program is building relationships with students and that the “best SRO is one who will have students coming to him or her proactively,” even if there’s “nothing to” a complaint.

“Make no mistake that we — every day — discuss this and are committed to continually improving the safety of our students and make sure that we protect them always,” he added. “That’s the No. 1 priority for us. And certainly, the main mission and goal of the SROs in the school is to enhance school safety and protect our students.”

As classes were being dismissed later Tuesday afternoon, Fiddler’s Elementary School was placed on a Level 1 lockdown due to nearby police activity, according to an Iron County School District Facebook post.

File photo of Cedar City Police vehicles, Cedar City, Utah Aug. 10, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Police made a welfare check on a man parked in a vehicle after someone reported that “there was something wrong,” Adams told Cedar City News. The individual fled on foot in the school’s direction, prompting the lockdown as a precautionary measure.

“So he couldn’t get into the school,” he said. “Not that that’s where he was going — he was just trying to get away from us.”

The order was lifted at approximately 3:50 p.m.

“We appreciate local law enforcement and the quick actions of school staff in keeping students and parents safe,” the district wrote. “We also thank parents for their patience and cooperation with Lockdown Safety Protocols as this occurred just as school was releasing and parents were arriving at the school. These protocols help keep students safe and allow law enforcement to focus on the safety of the community.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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