The high school was briefly on lockdown Thursday morning for an “isolated student incident,” according to the school district.
At around 11 a.m., the school went into lockdown and several concerned parents began posting to social media sites asking what was happening and if their children were safe.
Ottawa County Central Dispatch refused to give any information about the call, but confirmed the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office was responding to an incident at the school.
At 11:26 a.m., the school tweeted that the lockdown had been lifted and that normal school activities were resuming. However, no further details were released.
When Holland Sentinel staff arrived on the scene at 11:42 a.m., there was no active police presence on the campus.
At 11:58 a.m., the district alerted parents via its Campus Messenger system, saying: “The purpose of this message is to keep you informed regarding an incident at West Ottawa High School this morning. Due to an isolated student incident, West Ottawa High School went into a lockdown situation for a short period of time. After the isolated incident was resolved, the school operated under shelter in place while the WOHS administration worked with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department on the matter. As of 11:20 a.m. we have resumed all normal school activities. We will follow up with more information to parents at a later time.”
Shortly after noon, Jim English, the West Ottawa district’s associate superintendent for business services, confirmed that no one was hurt in the incident.
Some West Ottawa parents said they heard from their students that another student on the roof had a gun.
Capt. Mark Bennett of the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a student had a gun, but not the location of the incident. A statement from the school district later Thursday confirmed that the student had never been on the roof and was taken into custody outside the north high school building.
Bennett said West Ottawa school resource officers were notified of a student who may be in possession of a firearm at 10:28 a.m. The school resource deputies Kristina Workman and Alex DeJong located a 17-year-old suspect who was taken into custody without incident.
The male student was in possession of a small-caliber handgun, but no shots were fired and there were no injuries, police said.
Bennett said the student was answering questions from Sheriff’s Office investigators, but his motive remains unclear. Detectives were still interviewing the student late Thursday afternoon and doing “subsequent searches,” Bennett said.
School officials were notified of the threat by students, who immediately went to administrators about the weapon concern.
Bennett said the procedures were “followed very well.”
In a statement to parents sent several hours after the incident, West Ottawa Superintendent Tom Martin said students reported to a staff member they suspected another student of being in “possession of a revolver.” That staff member then followed safety protocol and security staff immediately located the student in question.
“While this was an unfortunate isolated incident, we are proud of our students and staff at West Ottawa High School for efficiently following our school safety procedures,” Martin wrote. “The strong relationship and collaborative communication of students and staff resulted in a proactive resolution to this incident. We are grateful for the students who stepped up in this instance and would ask that you encourage your children to do the same if they ever see something suspicious or dangerous.”
Police said the student is lodged in the Ottawa County Jail and will be charged with being in possession of a stolen firearm and carrying a concealed weapon in violation of a pistol-free zone. The Sheriff’s Office will release the student’s identity after he is arraigned in court Friday, Sept. 14.