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All three Indian Land schools were locked down Tuesday, Jan. 29, after a man was seen near campus carrying what was thought to be a gun, but turned out to be a popular recreational replica.
Lancaster County School District Safety Director Bryan Vaughn said the incident happened about 2:20 p.m. just as students at Indian Land Elementary School were being dismissed for the day.
Vaughn said the sheriff’s office notified school officials after receiving a 911 call, possibly from a parent, about a man with a gun near the high school softball field, which is adjacent to the elementary school.
The report prompted the schools to launch contingency plans that included locking school entrances and huddling students in their classrooms. The lockdown lasted for about 20 minutes, Vaughn said.
“Deputies were able to identify the man and it’s my understanding that it turned out to be one of those Airsoft guns,” Vaughn said. “It was certainly a cause for concern because for about 15 minutes, we didn’t know what we were dealing with.”
According to the incident report, deputies spoke with the 24-year-old man at a home in the 4200 block of Doby’s Bridge Road shortly after the call and confirmed he’d been carrying one of the popular and highly realistic replica firearms.
The mock weapons fire only plastic pellets.
Vaughn said deputies told him the man had cut through the woods behind the high school football field as a shortcut between his home on Little River Road and the Doby’s Bridge Road home of a friend who was interested in buying the gun.
The man was not charged.
“In any case, it was poor judgment in these days and times to walk across school grounds with anything that looks like a gun, or even a stick for that matter,” Vaughn said.
The lockdowns occurred as Vaughn wraps up a series of districtwide school safety inspections prompted by the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The information will be used by school board members and district officials to inventory and plan ways to strengthen both safety protocols and technology at local schools.
Vaughn said even though Tuesday’s lockdowns were not drills, he felt like his office and the schools gleaned valuable information from the incident.
“It opens your eyes up to the challenges (of securing schools),” Vaughn said. “Because it happened during dismissal, when there’s so much going on, it’s kind of a hard situation since it’s hard for us to control the situation.
“But I know our schools did a good job,” Vaughn said. “I felt good about it and felt like everybody took it seriously.”
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151