POLICE: Prank Shooting Call Forced School Lockdowns

New Bern police now say they believe a prank caller was responsible for a massive police action that forced two schools to go on lockdown Thursday morning.

The lockdown at New Bern High School was lifted just before noon, while a similar situation at Ben Quinn Elementary was lifted about an hour earlier. Both happened as police searched nearby for a possible shooting victim.

It started around 9:10 a.m. when police say they got a call of a person shot off Myrtle Grove Road. That's not far from the high school.

Police say their concerns were heightened because the initial call to 911 cut off before the conversation was finished.

Ben Quinn Elementary School had been placed on lockdown, but that was lifted after about an hour. The lockdown at the high school was lifted around 11:45 a.m.

The schools were placed on lockdown as a safety precaution. Police brought in multiple tracking dogs and utilized a Highway Patrol helicopter in the search of several neighborhoods.

Police found no evidence of a shooting and cleared the area around 12: 45 p.m.

Chief Frank Palombo says they believe the same person made another 911 hoax call last month. He says if they catch the person they will face charges and pursue having them back the city back for lost manpower.


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  • by Outdated, Antiquated on Jan 30, 2011 at 12:34 PM
    The very evening of the lockdown we get a phone call from none other than Automated Tom Marsh! Hearing his voice this time drew respect and admiration as I was sure he was going to address the lockdown they had (even though the call needed to be made to inform parents at the time). Just after he said Good evening this is Tom Marsh and proceeded to say *There are still Yearbooks left* Admiration and respect dropped as I listened to the sales pitch, all hope was lost of restoration as he ended with *Keep Smilin!* The next night another automated message from him about meetings and whatever. If I can't get a call to inform me my 3 kids are in lockdown so I can at least say a prayer for them, then don't bother me with fundraisers and minuscule reminders. What an out dated, antiquated school policy of not informing parents! That way dates back to cold war 50s era when they got under the desk and would have had to dial every single home. There was no way to contact every parent then. Update!
  • by Improvement Needed on Jan 28, 2011 at 06:02 AM
    I read the post here and first want to say; Thank God it turned out well ('prank' or not)! Second if you don't have children in NBHS that has to crunch up on the floor in the corner of a room for the entire time of 'Lockdown' you don't have vested interest in the procedure, so commenting on 'the super highway of too much info' or how the school can't 'call every parent' is irrational as you are uninformed, so why post here. There are Millions of schools with an AUTOMATED ALERT SYSTEM and most all in USA have them. New Bern can not hide behind 'keeping kids safe' as an excuse not to inform parents! IF NBHS wants to know HOW to Put A Successful Alert System in place there is advice to be had from The Department Of Education as well as thousands of examples on schools web pages. Parents are not idiots and can handle the truth. We do not live in a Police State with Authorities excluding parents being informed of activities concerning the very lives of our children,
  • by My 2 cents on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:34 PM
    As a parent of a high schooler. I applaud the school for not calling. I am a emergency responder and have been to several bomb threats at schools to search for bombs while parents are there trying to pick their kids up causing more problems than they know. Bombs can be set off by the use of a cell phone. Lock downs were put in place to protect the kids and it does just that. When parents come to the school in these situation it causes congestion problems for police,fire and rescue personnel. I certainly would hope you would want us to get in and provide assitance to anyone who needed it especially if it was your kid. Why would a parent want to come to an area where there is a possible shooting putting theirself and their child in harms way by taking them out of a building which is locked down with no entrance or exit from the building. If Tom Marsh didnt call you what would you do but fuss about not knowing about anything. God Bless All
  • by RdoubleD on Jan 27, 2011 at 05:54 PM
    How about a prank arrest?
  • by NBHS Staff Location: New Bern on Jan 27, 2011 at 05:27 PM
    As a staff member who was in lockdown today with my students, I want to commend the students at NBHS for being so mature about the situation. It is a psychologically and physically uncomfortable situation to be in, and the teachers and students followed the procedures that have been put in place to keep everyone safe. I completely understand the concerns voiced by the parents and community members commenting below, and while I can fully understand both sides of the argument, when we are in the situation, we must trust that the best possible procedures have been put in place to protect the lives of the thousands of people at the school. I am proud of the NBHS Bears for being so mature and serious in what could have been a life threatening situation. Thank God that it was most likely a prank this time, but heaven forbid if it is ever not a prank, at least we know that law enforcements and the school will take necessary actions to keep everyone safe.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 02:26 PM
    The purpose of a LockDown is keep anyone from coming or going. Notifying parents would do nothing othan cause panic and people lined up at the entrence of the school trying to get their kids. I agree it can be a scary position to be in however what would you have done if you were notified. If they had to release and get the kids home than you would have been notified. Just like fire or bomb thrats, you aren't notified unless it is required and would be resonable.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 02:08 PM
    I am a student and new bern and was in the lock down today it was lifted at 11:45 and what lockdown did we have a month ago? what are your people talking about the parents should have been contacted my mom didnt know until I told her they can contacts all the parents at once and thats what they should have done.
  • by This Is How It's Done on Jan 27, 2011 at 11:56 AM
    Example of a School Protocol in case of Lockdown: [From Cascade School Web Page] "If we were to have a Lockdown, we would attempt to provide notification to parents via AUTOMATED PHONE CALLING SERVICE and WEB POSTING that a lockdown is in place. A message similar to the following would be used. "This message is to notify you that on (DATE) at (TIME). The Cascade School District was placed in a state of LOCKDOWN. The reason for this lockdown is ______________________. We ask that you do not call the school or anyone’s cell phone that is at school at this time. Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated. The District will notify you in this same manner once the LOCKDOWN threat is contained and if necessary provide directions as to how and where to pick up your child." IT CAN BE DONE SAFELY AND PROPERLY IN 2011!
  • by To: To Mrs Creech on Jan 27, 2011 at 11:42 AM
    I agree. People are getting crazy with the overload of information on the "info highway" and the speed at which it now flows. If your kid is at school, you've given the school the right and responsibility to protect your children. If you don't trust them (and the police) to handle things properly and responsibly, home school your children. If you're so worried about your kids safety, have them wear full metal jackets and head gear to school. I don't have kids. I couldn't care less about updates or notices. This story was a waste of time to me. I shudder to think of the man hours spent by the police investigating this. I wonder how many crimes went unsolved due to this distraction. Somebody has to pay!
  • by James on Jan 27, 2011 at 11:42 AM
    NBHS has an Automated Phone System. I am signed up for Messages and 'Tom Marsh' (automated) & the school call me and parents for every little paper due! No One has to 'dial' any parents. They just enter the automated message and it goes out to hundreds at once. To the person that said they have better things to do- You do not understand the School Systems in place. YES! They Can and Should contact parents!
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