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Foiled prank sends area schools into lockdown

April 28, 2011

Elk County Catholic High School went into lockdown mode Thursday morning morning after an unauthorized person inside the building was reported to police. Other area schools also went into lockdown mode as a precaution. Two students from St. Marys Area High School were taken into custody following what police said was an attempted school prank. Students were confirmed by law enforcement and school personnel as safe throughout the incident. Photo by Victoria Stanish.

ST. MARYS - A senior prank gone awry was reportedly the reason for a lockdown Thursday morning that affected schools in the Elk County Catholic School System and the St. Marys Area School District.
The St. Marys City Police reported responding to a report of an intruder in the Elk County Catholic High School (ECCHS) at approximately 8 a.m. Thursday morning. All schools within the district were immediately notified to go into lockdown as city police and area law enforcement agencies responded. According to City of St. Marys Police Chief Todd Caltagarone, all schools went into lockdown as a safety precaution because police had received "conflicting information" and were not yet sure what they were dealing with when initial reports were coming in.
Containment measures were quickly applied while police tactical teams entered the school and conducted a search.
The investigation disclosed that the incident was the result of two students from SMAHS who planned the event as part of a senior school prank. One subject was apprehended by police upon arrival at ECCHS and a second subject was later arrested at St. Marys Area High School (SMAHS) and taken into custody.
Caltagarone said ECCHS school personnel became suspicious when they observed a suspect dressed like a janitor and acting "evasive and elusive." He added that the suspect may have had "other things that may have been placed to distract (from) what they were doing."
"We basically declared our tactical alert," he said.
Emergency alerts sent from the schools' messaging systems alerted parents of a lockdown and assured them that students were safe.
According to police, both of the alleged pranksters are being charged with criminal offenses. Police said the two were not juveniles, but their names will not be released until charges are filed.
St. Marys City Police were assisted by the Ridgway Borough Police, Johnsonburg Borough Police, Elk County Sheriff's Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the St. Marys Area Ambulance Service and the Crystal Fire Department.

Comments

Sensationalism at ECCHS Prank

April 29, 2011 by Chuck (not verified), 3 years 25 weeks ago
Comment: 113

Give me a break Chief Caltagarone! Kids will be kids. No weapons involved, no threats involved, no damage done, and you make a
really big deal out of nothing! There are major problems in St. Marys that need addressed by our police and kids playing jokes isn't one of them. By the way Chief, are you the only officer in our police department? I ask that because you are the only one who
gets any "press", and especially television camera time. I hope that's not another city ego problem rearing its ugly head.

Mike

April 29, 2011 by Mike (not verified), 3 years 25 weeks ago
Comment: 115

Kids will be kids-are you serious??? No one including yourself knew for a fact there weren't weapons, Chief Caltagarone acted in a professional manner, following SOP. Had he not and weapons or threats came to light later on, chances are you would then complain about him not doing his job. No damage done - tell that to the hundreds of people affected, loss of professional time, worried parents, loss of work time, what about the distraction this "prank" caused to the police, fire department and ambulance, not to mention the dollar cost involved. Your attack on Chief Caltagarone for doing his job is lame.

Reply to "Chuck"

April 29, 2011 by BPR (not verified), 3 years 25 weeks ago
Comment: 114

Chuck, I'm not sure you understand the whole situation. Before attacking Chief Caltagarone, who is merely doing his job (and very well, by the way), you may want to get a bit of background on school protocol. Since Columbine, things have changed. It has been this way for years.
An intruder is an intruder...it doesn't matter what the reason for the intrusion. These events must be taken seriously. No one knew what the reason for the intrusion was. They could have had weapons. It is the school's and the law enforcement's jobs to keep the students safe. You must not be aware of the "zero tolerance" policy schools have in place. Zero tolerance means just that: no one is exempt.
Keeping our schools safe, in most people's opinions (except for maybe yours) should be top priority. I am proud of our police department and our school for acting quickly and efficiently. If it had been something other than a prank, I am confident that our teachers and students would have been safe.
So, in summary, get your facts straight before you "slam" the people who are keeping our schools safe.

Mike and BPR

April 30, 2011 by Chuck (not verified), 3 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 116

As soon as the determination was made that this was a school prank from across town, the brakes should have been applied and decisions should have been made in the best interest of all, especially the pranksters. Instead the camera mongering and sensationalism began. A mountain was made of a mole hill. Let's face it folks- this amounted to nothing until Altoona arrived with it's tv camera! That's my issue.
There are big things going on in St.Marys, things that need real police and media attention.

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