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False alarm prompts lockdown, search at Lone Peak High School

Police respond after a lockdown at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Lone Peak police received a third-party report of a person in a trench coat carrying a gun at the school, but the report was determined not to be credible, and police believe the caller had the wrong school.
Police respond after a lockdown at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Lone Peak police received a third-party report of a person in a trench coat carrying a gun at the school, but the report was determined not to be credible, and police believe the caller had the wrong school.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

HIGHLAND — Lone Peak High School students were released from class Friday after the school was placed on lockdown when a call was made to Lone Peak police reporting someone was seen with a weapon at or near the school.

The brief but intense ordeal around noon could be seen in videos students recorded and then shared online. They showed large groups of officers bearing SWAT gear and weapons entering and searching the school. Some students met police with greetings and giggles, while others raised both hands in the air.

Police responding to the call searched the perimeter, then went inside the building to conduct a room-by-room search, according to Alpine School District spokeswoman Kimberly Bird. About 100 police officers arrived to assist with the situation, she noted.

Footage from KSL-TV’s Chopper 5 showed armed officers searching the roof of the building, and multiple callers reported seeing several police cars in southern Salt Lake County racing toward Utah County with lights and sirens on I-15. As of 2 p.m., no weapons were found in the school. There were no injuries or reports of shots fired.

Bird said the tip to police was found to not be credible, as the caller believed there was a threat at Highland High School, located in Salt Lake City — not at a school in the city of Highland.

“On the exterior of the school it looked like a very scary situation, but we’re glad there was no threat,” she said.

Lone Peak police public information officer Dave Ventrano said a Highland High student told her older sister she had seen a suspicious person on campus carrying a weapon.

The older sister, believing that Highland High School was located in the city of Highland, found Lone Peak police’s number online and made a report.

“We take any kind of phone call seriously, as if there is a threat happening,” Ventrano said.

Yándary Chatwin, Salt Lake City School District spokeswoman, said the student had reported seeing somebody walk into the school with a duffel bag and suspected that person was carrying a weapon.

In a letter to parents, Highland High School Principal Chris Jenson explained the suspicious person was in fact a vending machine worker and not a threat to students.

“If we had information of a threat or found that there was any potential for danger, we would certainly go into lockdown,” the letter stated.

Chatwin said school officials were not aware that the lockdown at Lone Peak High School was linked to Highland High School until late in the afternoon.

Bird said she’s glad the weekend is coming up so that parents have an opportunity to talk to their children about what occurred.

“We know that kids are going to go home with anxiety,” she said. “The process is not an easy one.”

Just after 1:30 p.m., Lone Peak police officials said they would be allowing students to go home shortly. Students who drove to school would be allowed to drive their cars home.

“The good news that we’d like to share is that all students are accounted for, all students are safe,” Bird said.

Parents who arrived at the school were told to go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Mount Timpanogos Temple to pick up students who were taken by bus from the school.

Bird said about 2,500 attend Lone Peak High School. A football game on Friday night between Lone Peak High School and Riverton High School at Riverton will proceed but is expected to begin about 30 minutes later than previously scheduled.

Another Utah high school also faced a campus lockdown Friday afternoon after it conducted a lockdown drill earlier in the morning.

“Uintah High School briefly went on lockdown this afternoon after a staff member reported seeing someone in the school who they believed did not belong on campus,” according to a post from Uintah School District’s Facebook page.

Multiple police officers dispatched to the school found the individual was not a threat to students or staff. The lockdown lasted 20 minutes and classes continued.

Contributing: Sam Penrod, Jacob Klopfenstein