Update on Thursday’s Police Activity at Martinsburg Schools

  • Update on Thursday’s Police Activity at Martinsburg Schools

    Update on Thursday’s Police Activity at Martinsburg Schools

    In light of police response involving schools within the City of Martinsburg on Thursday, Chief Maury Richards wishes to notify the community of the facts pertaining to today’s law enforcement activities. A number of false rumors were circulated, generating significant fear and disorder. The facts of today’s events are as follows:

    On Thursday, September 22, 2016 at approximately 7:45am, officers from the Martinsburg Police Department responded to an area north of North Middle School for a report of a suspicious person. School personnel advised dispatch that an individual wearing a mask, possibly a clown mask, had been seen near a wooded area that was not on school property, but within eyesight. Officers promptly responded to the area and conducted a thorough search. The individual was not located and no evidence of suspicious activity was located.

    During the time that officers were searching the area north of North Middle School property, school staff kept students inside the building, but never enacted any sort of lockdown procedures. Police were in the area actively searching for approximately 30 minutes. It was ultimately determined that the person had never been on school property.

    Subsequent to this activity, it came to the attention of the Martinsburg Police Department that rumors were circulating and escalating about the police activity. The most extreme of which, was that there had been an active shooter at North Middle School. This was not the case, and no students or school personnel were known to be in danger at any point.

    At approximately 12:56pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016, the staff of Orchard View Intermediate School communicated to MPD that they had received an unconfirmed report of an active shooter in the school. School personnel acted immediately and decisively, placing students on lockdown, to ensure the safety of everyone on the campus. Officers from the Martinsburg Police Department, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, West Virginia State Police, and Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately responded to the school. A multi-agency operation took place where officers surrounded the school and systematically searched the building for active shooters. The school was cleared and the building was deemed to be safe. It was then determined to have been an unfounded report due to a severe miscommunication.

    After the police activity had concluded, all students and school staff were gathered and accounted for. Chief Maury Richards, Deputy Chief George Swartwood, and Captain Kevin Miller addressed the school, commending the work of both law enforcement and school personnel who responded with the utmost of professionalism to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The false report was able to be used as a learning opportunity for the students, and a chance for law enforcement officers to reassure them that no matter what, the police will respond as quickly as possible if they ever need help. Law enforcement personnel and school staff will meet next week to assess today’s response in order to continue improving school safety in the future.

    The Martinsburg Police Department wishes to reiterate that even though an unusually high presence of law enforcement personnel was observed at schools within the City of Martinsburg today, no students or staff were in any sort of danger at any point in time.