Foiled prank sends area schools into lockdown

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.