Suicidal Suspect Caught, Caused 'Lockout' at 4 Parkway Schools
A 19-year-old man from Webster Groves bought a shotgun today, told his girlfriend he was going to kill himself. Parkway South High School, Southwest Middle, Wren Hollow Elementary, and Hanna Woods Elementary were in "lockout" mode as authorities searched.
UPDATE: 11 p.m., Monday-
Parkway School District officials tell Patch approximately 100 students and staff were locked inside Parkway South High School Monday evening as a swat team searched the woods behind the campus for a suicidal 19-year-old with a shotgun.
UPDATE: 8 p.m.
A 19-year-old Webster Groves man bought a shotgun Monday afternoon, texted his girlfriend that he was going to kill himself, then proceeded to the area near Parkway South High School, causing more than two hours of alarm at four Parkway district schools. No word on why he chose that location.
No one was injured during the incident.
Authorities were alerted by the man's girlfriend, also from Webster Groves, sometime around 4:30 p.m. Manchester police said the teen purchased the gun around 3:30 p.m. Monday, but they did not know where.
The situation compelled authorities to alert the Parkway School District. School officials then went into "lockout" mode at Parkway South High, Hanna Woods Elementary, Southwest Middle and Wren Hollow Elementary in Manchester.
By using the girlfriend's texts, police located the man in his car on the road between Parkway South High School and Southwest Middle. The man fled on foot from his car into the woods when spotted by authorities. St. Louis County Police, Manchester police and a county tactical team searched for the man in the woods behind Parkway South High School.
They texted his cellphone to persuade him to surrender. He surrendered shortly after 7 p.m. Manchester Police Chief Tim Walsh said the 19-year-old literally walked out of the woods to police. He then walked authorities back to his shotgun that was left in the woods. Police also found box of shotgun shells in the man's car.
"This situation had nothing to do with the schools except for the proximity of which it occurred," said Manchester Police Chief Tim Walsh. "Everybody's concern is heightened right now."
The incident occurred three days after the deadly massacre in Newtown, CT, in which a man invaded an elementary school, then shot and killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders, before killing himself.
In the Manchester incident, police did not say whether the gun was loaded when it was found. Police said the man did not threaten anyone but himself, and surrendered peacefully.
Police cleared the scene at about 7:30 p.m.
Parkway put the "lockout" in place at the schools around 5 p.m., which typically means people are not let in or out of the buildings for their safety.
Parkway School District spokeswoman Cathy Kelly told Patch: "We just lock the doors and prohibit anyone from coming in the school."
However, some parents were in the process of picking up their elementary school children from after-school care at that time and they were allowed to do so.
Kelly said about 100 people were still at Parkway South High for extracurricular activities when the "lockout" went into place. The other three schools were mostly empty at that time, except for a few staff members and custodians.
Some school administrators did come back to the buildings if they had left in an effort to monitor the situation.
Hanna Woods Elementary School was used as a staging area for police. West County EMS and Fire Protection Distict crews were also on scene and on standby in case paramedics were needed.
In a news conference after the incident, police said the man, whom they did not identify, had purchased the shotgun and the shotgun shells at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, about an hour before he called his girlfriend. He told her then that he had bought the shotgun, that he was upset and that he was going to kill himself.
Parkway students were buzzing about the event on Facebook; one student said she received a text message alert about the incident sent to her cellphone. Students were also concerned about how the event would affect finals week, which is due to begin on Tuesday.
School is scheduled to begin as usual on Tuesday morning. Manchester police said they are conducting walkthroughs in the schools every two hours this week.
Kelly tells Patch police are also on the grounds of the elementary schools before and after class all week to ease the fears of staff and parents.
Check back to Patch later today for more on the "lockout" protocol and how it unfolded Monday evening.
*Patch Editor Frank Johnson contributed to this report.