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School lockdown unwarranted

PENDLETON – Willis Hare Elementary School was briefly under lockdown Thursday when an erroneous report came in of a man with a gun nearby.

Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith said the reports were wrong. He said the reports may have started because deputies about mile from the school were searching for a suspect in a domestic disturbance charge from the previous night.

“Someone might have seen an armed detective beside the road,” Smith said. “I’m just speculating.”

Smith said the suspect, Hermanz Williams, 22, who was taken into custody, was not armed and was much nearer to Conway than to Pendleton, where Willis Hare Elementary is located.

The sheriff said the school was under lockdown about an hour, but deputies remained there for about three hours, “to err on the side of caution.”

Smith said, “Thank God there was nothing to it. We have to make sure our kids are safe.”

Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter said, “Student safety comes first.”

She also expressed thanks to the school staff for quickly implementing the successful lockdown protocol, thanked the sheriff’s office for its rapid response and dedication, and thanked parents for remaining calm.

Woofter said, “In this day and time, it’s important to put accurate information out on social media. It is unfortunate somebody posted inaccurate information.”

Someone apparently posted to social media that shots had been fired, but obviously that was not true, nor was there even a threat of violence since the sheriff’s office quickly determined the suspect not only did not have a gun, but according to the sheriff, “He didn’t even have a pocket knife.”

Woofter said, “We all did our part in the best interest of our children.”