Winooski school complex cleared after search for possible gunman - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Winooski school complex cleared after search for possible gunman

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A scary situation in Winooski ended peacefully Thursday. The school district went into lockdown Thursday after a 911 caller told police there was a shooter inside the school.

The sirens could be heard from every corner of the city as police cruisers and tactical tanks descended on the Winooski school complex late Thursday afternoon.

Around 4:30 p.m., a reported home invasion on nearby Weaver Street sent the school into lockdown. Canine teams tracked one of the two suspects near school grounds. Then a second 911 call came in.

"From someone who said they were inside the school and reporting that as they put it, the shooter was inside the school," Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen said.

Dozens of heavily armed officers surrounded the building, a perimeter was set up and an extraction team was sent in to search for the alleged gunman thought to be holed up.

"Anytime you have a situation in a school where kids are at risk we really do rally together to do this. You don't know who the threat is and who the threat isn't," McQueen said.

Authorities say nearly 30 children were trapped inside. Senior Kassian Prior says he and his friends were playing basketball in the gym when their coach rushed them into the locker room.

"He said try to keep everything together, keep as quiet as you could. Everyone did a good job being quiet," Prior said.

The kids used chairs to barricade the door and waited in the dark until police arrived.

"We were told by police through the door to get on the ground and they had our coach and asked who he was and who was in there and then they came in," Prior said

Outside the school, emotions ran high as some parents were reunited with their children.

"We didn't get any notifications. We had to find out just by seeing the lights. No automated phone calls," parent David Burlingame said.

Others swarmed the school grounds still searching for their kids.

"I don't know if he feels safe right now. I can take care of myself. He's only 9. He doesn't know how to process all this kind of stuff. So it's kind of scary," parent Kevin Zweeres said.

Emily Hines works at the elementary school. She rushed her kids from the library to a steel classroom closet when she heard about a possible shooter.

"It was really scary being in a closet with a lot of kids and not knowing what was happening," Hines said.

Nearly three hours after the ordeal began -- good news. After two sweeps of the school officials gave the all clear.

A gunman was not found inside and authorities say they aren't sure if the suspect ever entered the building.

"Even though we wound up not finding anybody-- which is good-- it was an opportunity for all of us to work together and we will learn from it, as well, so that the next time we do it even better," McQueen said.

Police praised the district for following lockdown procedures. The superintendent says on Friday counselors will be on hand to support students and staff.

Winooski police say they are still actively investigating the case. No one is in custody and no suspects have been identified. But police say the public is not at risk. Police believe the home invasion may be drug-related and the victims were likely targeted.

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