Wareham students evacuated from schools following 'very specific' threat of shooting

Anonymous email prompts massive police response
By Matthew Bernat and Lydia Goerner | Jul 10, 2017
Members of the State Police SWAT team prepare to enter Wareham Middle School on Monday afternoon.

Wareham schools were evacuated Monday following an emailed threat to an administrator regarding a possible school shooting on the first day of summer school and summer educational programs.

After officials, some who were heavily armed, performed an exhaustive sweep of Warham Middle School, Wareham High School and Minot Forest Elementary, Police Chief Kevin Walsh said law enforcement gave the all clear at 4 p.m.

Walsh noted an administrator at the school received an email Monday morning that "came from an unknown source saying they were inside a school in Wareham and that they threatened to shoot people." This threat was "close to the top level," and "very specific," Walsh said.

Wareham Schools Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood was then notified. Due to the specific nature of the threat, law enforcement agencies from across the region, including the South Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council's SWAT team, responded, said Walsh.

"We did what we had to do," said Walsh. "Safety was the paramount objective."

In total, between 80 to 100 students at Wareham High School, 200 to 300 students at Wareham Middle School and 70 to 100 students at Minot Forest Elementary were evacuated. Students were participating in various summer school, enrichment and sports programs at the time.

Walsh praised public safety officials who responded, which included officers from multiple towns in the region, parents and students who were "unbelievably cooperative with all of our instructions."

At approximately 11:45 a.m., parents learned that their children would be bused from Wareham High School and Wareham Middle School to the Gleason Family YMCA on Charge Pond Road. Wareham High was evacuated first. At approximately 1:15 p.m., students could be seen evacuating Wareham Middle School.

Everyone was evacuated safely and there were no injuries, Walsh said.

A portion of Route 6 was shut down from Gibbs Avenue to High Street for a number of hours, with traffic rerouted as police evacuated the schools.

According to a message from Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood posted on the district website: "Today an email was sent to an administrator which threatened the safety of students. Buildings have been placed in lock down as the police are in process of searching the buildings. Information will be shared as it becomes available."

On Monday at around 2:30 p.m., Shaver-Hood confirmed at a press briefing that all school activities are planned to proceed for Tuesday.

"We look forward to a full day of school tomorrow," Shaver-Hood said.

If the person who made the threat is found, they will be "prosecuted to the fullest," Walsh said. The state and Homeland Security are investigating who sent the email, and Wareham Police is "the lead investigator of the whole incident," Walsh said.

Wareham Police and Wareham Fire responded to Viking Drive shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday. State Police, law enforcement agencies from surrounding towns, SWAT teams, and helicopters soon followed.

"Your children are safe and the situation is being handled with an abundance of caution with the safety of your children in mind," Wareham Police told parents via a Facebook post just before 12:30 p.m.

Parents flooded the Town Hall parking lot around 11 a.m. to determine whether, when, and where they could pick up their children.

"It's like what you see on TV," a woman said into her phone, "but it's real life."

Parents expressed frustration with the uncertainty of the situation.

"I want my kid now," one woman yelled.

"We got no call from the school about this. I saw it on Facebook," said Melissa Wilson, whose daughter was attending the kindergarten literacy program at Wareham Middle School. "There was no talking about anything. I think it was handled absolutely wrong. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Later, parents reported receiving phone calls from the district on the situation, including one telling them to pick up their children at the YMCA.

At approximately 11:40 a.m., district school buses arrived on Viking Drive.

Confused patrons asked bystanders what was going on as they entered and exited Town Hall, which is adjacent to Wareham Middle School. Wareham High School is further down Viking Drive. Officers began clearing the Town Hall parking lot completely at 11:45 a.m.

Decas elementary did not have any students inside, but some staff were present and was checked by law enforcement officers as a precaution.

"Right now, it's just a sad situation," said Thomas Hendricks, a parent with a daughter who was in the middle school. "We want our children, that's all. You have 99 people telling you wrong stories."

At the YMCA, Y staff member Lu Brito addressed waiting parents.

"I've got kids too. I sympathize," Brito said. "The fire department and police department will take care of it."

The YMCA prepared to have drinks available for the kids who were awaiting parent pick-up.

"This is the safe zone," said Sharon Quinn, a staff member at the YMCA.

"This was my son's first day of school ever," said Sarah Smith, who picked her kindergarten-age son up at the YMCA. "He didn't want to go today, and we made him."

In addition to school programs, the Wareham Gatemen were practicing on Spillane Field, next to Wareham Middle.

"I think they're doing a great job. They've got the SWAT team on it," said Sean Callahan, Gatemen assistant coach, who was on the field with his team until everyone was evacuated.

This is the third threat of a school shooting made to Wareham Public Schools this year.

An officer speaks with motorists on Kennedy Lane. (Photo by: Jaime Rebhan)
An official directs traffic in front of Town Hall near the Wareham Free Library, where emergency response vehicles are staging. (Photo by: Jaime Rebhan)
A Plymouth County SWAT vehicle makes its way down High Street. (Photo by: Jaime Rebhan)
Emergency vehicles stage at the Wareham Free Library. (Photo by: Jaime Rebhan)
Lu Brito, Gleason Family YMCA staff member, directed parents as children arrived on buses. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
First-responders stage outside of Wareham Middle School.
Caileen Colon waits at the YMCA for her brother Chase Colon to get off a bus after being evacuated on Monday. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Becky Gifford and her son Chase Colon are reunited at the YMCA after schools were evacuated following a shooting threat. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Gatemen team members leave practice early after the baseball field is evacuated. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Students at a summer baseball camp were removed from the field and picked up by parents. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
(Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Children who were in the Wareham Middle School were bussed to the YMCA to be picked up by their parents. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
The YMCA provided drinks and a "safe zone" for students who were evacuated from the school. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
(Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
A child gets off the school bus after his basketball camp is ended early for the day. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Parents were relieved to make contact with their children after the Wareham Middle School was evacuated. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood (left) and Wareham Police Chief Kevin Walsh answer questions at a press briefing. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
At a press briefing, Wareham Police Chief Walsh said the threat was "close to the top level." (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Comments (10)
Posted by: Linda | Jul 10, 2017 13:17

THERE IS NOTHING RIDICULOUS ABOUT THE WAY THIS WAS HANDLED, EXCEPT FOR MAYBE THE RADIO CHANNEL'S FOR OFFICER GIRARD TO HEAR NOTHING BUT STATIC.  THE CHILDREN AND ADULTS WERE BETTER OFF IN LOCKDOWN.  THE THREAT WAS BY EMAIL, SOMETHING ABOUT "I AM HERE AND HAVE A GUN OR WILL SHOOT"  -  NOT EXACT WORDS!  WHAT IF A SHOOTER WAS ON THE ROOF?  PEOPLE MARCHING OUT TO BUSES OR THE FOOTBALL FIELD COULD BE EASY TARGETS.  I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THE EMAIL SENDER TO FESS UP & BE BILLED FOR ALL THE PD'S AND SWAT TEAMS, BUS DRIVERS, COST OF BUSES AND PAY FOR BETTER RADIOS, ANTENNAS OR WHATEVER WPD NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE ON DESIGNATED CHANNELS!!!  GREAT JOB WPD AND ALL THE OTHER AGENCIES, DOGS AND EQUIPMENT YOU BROUGHT IN.

 



Posted by: Cindy | Jul 10, 2017 14:10

Linda, I love you dearly, but stop yelling.  And yes, whomever was behind this should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 



Posted by: baron1701@yahoo.com | Jul 10, 2017 15:07

I am very happy with the response. In today's world you just don't know. Twenty years ago and before Sandy Hook this would have been handled differently. My boys were supposed to be there in summer school today but didn't get home from vacation in time to make the first day. It could have been me in some of those pictures worried running around looking for my kids so I do sympathize.



Posted by: Linda | Jul 10, 2017 21:14

HI CINDY - FEELINGS ARE MUTUAL.  I'M NOT YELLING, CAPS ARE EASIER AS I AM LAYING DOWN IN BED WITH A SERIOUS NECK INJURY, BEING ICED.  3 YRS. OF TYPING ON MY RESUME FOR SECRETARY & BOOKKEEPING - YOU DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO.

 



Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Jul 10, 2017 22:28

Don't worry about the caps, Linda.  Some people just look for opportunities to be offended.  But paragraphs are our friends.

 

I'm impressed by the professional law enforcement response.  It's apparent our children are as safe here from wacko threats as anywhere.  Except for maybe stupid parents, who for some reason think that a bunch of hysterical amateurs flocking to a crime scene and exacerbating the imbroglio are going to actually make their kids safer.  Disgusting idiots.

 

Feeling proud of the professional response.  Redefining Warehamy.



Posted by: sweetie | Jul 11, 2017 06:49

Great job Wareham police and fire departments, as well as all other emergency agencies including the YMCA, who quickly responded to a potentially dangerous situation to ensure the safety of all our children.  The fact that all these agencies were able to organize a safe plan to successfully remove all the children from three schools, and bring them to a safe place was outstanding.



Posted by: Peaches0409 | Jul 11, 2017 07:49

Talk about a group effort! From police and fire to the staff at the YMCA and lets not forget the bus drivers who went into a situation where they didn't know what to expect. Well done all around! I can tell you this, I feel safe sending my child to school after seeing this swift and well executed response. Wareham rocks!



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jul 11, 2017 10:14

Wareham Police/Fire/EMS/Harbormaster departments are outstanding!  The handling of this incident and many others continue to prove that.  I am proud and feel safe to live here.  Aside from my feelings toward the one responsible for this, I have nothing but positive things to say.  As Society says, this is redefining of that adjective (although it has never been applied to our outstanding departments).    I'm even going to go as far as cutting the parents some slack.  Parents were scared.  This was a scary thing.  Glad it had a happy ending.



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Jul 11, 2017 16:48

As someone who has worked a similar situation a few years ago it sure looked like Wareham emergency services , school department had everything under control.. Great Job by everyone ... Now go get this clown



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jul 21, 2017 12:59

I read somewhere that they can't trace the email because it originated overseas. If so, it looks like nobody is going to get caught for causing this. That's hard to accept.



If you wish to comment, please login.