Caller threatens to “shoot-up” Hertford County schools

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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All public schools in Hertford County as well as Ridgecroft School dismissed classes and sent students home prior to 12 noon on Tuesday.

Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) and Ridgecroft School sent out alerts to the parents of their students, advising them of the 11:30 a.m. dismissal.

Roanoke-Chowan Community College also canceled classes on Tuesday.

Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes said that the threat was made via a phone call Tuesday morning to the HCPS Central Office in Winton.

“The caller stated that all the schools would be ‘shot up’ by 3:30 pm,” Hayes told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. “Right now we don’t know the identity of the person who made that call, but we’re working diligently to find out that information.

“We made the decision at that point to close down all of our schools in the county and let our investigation begin,” Hayes added. “We take every threat seriously and will do everything in our power to keep our students and school staff safe.”

Brunet Parker, HCPS Public Information Officer, said alerts were immediately sent out to the staff and the parents of the students regarding a potential safety threat to the campuses.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all schools were dismissed at 11:30 am. We believe that this is the best action to take at this time while investigating,” Parker said in a statement.

The statement added that HCPS is working closely with the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, Ahoskie Police Department, and Murfreesboro Police Department as well as the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Murfreesboro is home to two of Hertford County’s public schools – Riverview Elementary and Hertford County Middle School. Murfreesboro Police Chief David Griffith said his department worked to help ensure the safety of the students.

“We had officers on the scene at both schools today (Tuesday) upon their departure,” Griffith reported, noting that they usually have at least one officer at each school every day.

He said they will probably have an increased presence at the schools while the investigation continues.

“We’re there because we care, and we just want everybody to be as safe as possible,” he added. “The schools are doing a really good job of keeping the doors locked. So it’s a collective effort.”

Ahoskie Police Chief Jimmy Asbell said that APD officers were dispatched to the three public schools in town – Ahoskie Elementary, Bearfield Primary, and Hertford County High School – in response to the threat.

“We were notified by the Sheriff’s Office and sent our officers to support them and the school officials with extra security while the students were leaving the campuses,” Asbell stated.

Hayes said he was scheduled to meet with the HCPS Superintendent at 7 pm on Tuesday at which time he will provide an update on the investigation by his officers into the incident.

“At that time, the superintendent will meet with the school board and they will make a determination whether or not to keep the schools closed on Wednesday,” Hayes said.

There was a similar threat made in Gates County last week. Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams told the RC News-Herald that on Oct. 20, a high school student brought information to school administration regarding an alleged statement made by another student about a threat to school safety.

“This situation was investigated and the appropriate discipline, according to the handbook, was administered,” Williams said. “Law enforcement was made aware of the situation and we will have an increased presence on our campus.

“I am very grateful for any student who reports a possible threat to the safety of our schools,” he added. “As always, the safety of our students and community is paramount. We will remain vigilant in doing all within our power to keep students out of harm’s way, as student and staff safety is our number one priority.”

Tuesday’s sudden shutdown of schools in Hertford County came one day after a 19-year-old gunman killed a 15-year-old student and a 61-year-old physical education teacher at a high school in St. Louis. Seven other students were injured.

St. Louis Police said the shooter graduated from the school last year. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and what appeared to be more than 600 rounds of ammunition.

The shooter was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police less than 45 minutes after forcing his way into the building.