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Car backfire causes school lockdown

Becky Vargo • May 2, 2019 at 1:28 PM

PORT SHELDON TWP. — Students and staff at two Ottawa Area Intermediate School buildings went on lockdown late Thursday morning after a staff member at Sheldon Pines School on 136th Avenue reported a loud, suspicious noise.

Sheldon Pines and the nearby Careerline Tech Center were placed on lockdown while the noise was investigated, said Capt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies responded with several units at 11:47 a.m. and quickly determined that no students or staff members were injured or in danger, Bennett said. Deputies checked the school parking lots as well as a nearby residence, field and woods.

While doing a check of vehicles exiting the Tech Center parking lot, deputies found that a student in the lot had started a vehicle, causing it to backfire, which was the source of the loud noise, Bennett said.

The lockdown was canceled at about 12:09 p.m.

Normal activities at the schools were resumed shortly after the discovery, Bennett said.

“It appears that the protocols were followed appropriately,” he said.

Michelle Ready, the director of communications for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, said all of the district’s Port Sheldon campus facilities “sheltered in place” at the request of law enforcement during the lockdown. That meant finding a safe location indoors and staying there until they are given an “all clear” or told to evacuate.

“When I received word that someone reported a loud noise behind Careerline Tech Center that sounded like a gun shot, my first thought was to not jump to conclusions because early information is often inaccurate,” Ready said. “(I) began thinking through what actions I needed to take to help ensure student, staff and visitor safety.”

Ready added this statement: “We are fortunate to be a part of the Ottawa Area Secure Schools Network which is a combined effort between schools, law enforcement, and emergency responders within the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District to enhance school safety across the region. We are working together to achieve a higher level of preparedness and, today, I witnessed firsthand our coordinated planning with law enforcement is working.”

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