Police: Report of gun at Spruce Mountain High School a hoax

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Wilton Police Chief Heidi Wilcox blocks traffic Wednesday morning from Spruce Mountain Middle and High schools. The schools were on lockdown after a prank call about a person with a gun was received by Cpl. Jeffrey Fournier of the Jay Police Department.

Amy and Robert Mosher of Livermore Falls wait for word Wednesday morning during a lockdown of Spruce Mountain Middle and High schools in Jay. The parking lot at the Knights of Columbus hall across from the schools was filled with parents and relatives concerned about the well-being of family members. 

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JAY — Maine State Police said a report of a student with a gun at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay on Wednesday morning appeared to be a prank.

The report prompted school officials to lock down the middle and high schools.

Jay Police Chief Richard E. Caton IV said Wednesday afternoon that four calls were referred through the 911 system at about 8:10 to 8:15 a.m.

He said, “Two calls were hang-ups. One said, ‘Spruce Mountain Middle School Help Help.’ The second said, ‘At the Spruce Mountain Middle School there’s a guy with a gun.'”

Caton said the elementary, middle and high schools were locked down because of their close proximity.

“It’s still under investigation,” he said. “We’re looking at more than one person. They’re believed to be students. Searches were conducted in all three schools; (we) made sure they were deemed safe one at a time.

Spruce Mountain Primary School Principal Kevin Harrington said near the end of the school day that he got the call just before students were due to arrive. Primary students took breakfast to their classrooms so students from the other three schools could be fed in the cafeteria. A similar approach was used for lunch.

“We decided early to feed them lunch, too,” Harrington said. “Our cafeteria folks were awesome. We utilized the bus drivers too. There was great organization. Students were back on buses to go to the other schools about 40 minutes after the lockdown ended.

“The kids were great. I’ve got nothing but praise for them,” Harrington said.

Franklin County Dispatch received a call saying there was a person with a gun at Spruce Mountain Middle School, Superintendent Kenneth Healey said shortly after noon.

He said police were contacted and the principals at both schools put the schools in lockdown.

“Police conducted searches of the two buildings and concluded it was a hoax,” Healey said. “They will continue to investigate.”

Healey said Wednesday was a late-start day and students were being delivered to the schools at the time of the report.

He said police responded quickly and put kids back on the buses. Middle and high school students were first taken to the elementary school. They were later bused to Spruce Mountain Primary School in Livermore.

“We tried to find a safe location away from the site,” Healey said.

Healey said the schools have practiced for such an event.

“With the timing today, parents were bringing kids to the schools,” he said. “It’s our practice not to inform parents. We can’t have 3,000 parents coming in.” 

He said teacher training on how to respond to an active shooter situation had been held Aug. 28 with an Androscoggin County deputy sheriff and Livermore Falls Fire Chief Edward Hastings IV. A monthly safety meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday.

“We come up with and practice plans from the regular safety meetings,” Healey said. “The teachers followed the practices they learned on the 28th. We’ll see on Tuesday if additional steps are needed.”

A Jay Police Department Facebook post at about 11:30 a.m Wednesday reported that the schools had been released from lockdown.

“Jay police are still investigating. All RSU 73 schools have been deemed safe by police and school staff,” according to the post.

At a little after 10 a.m., Wilton Police Chief Heidi Wilcox blocked access to the middle and high schools. She said Cpl. Jeffrey Fournier was the officer on duty who took the call.

The parking lot at the Knights of Columbus across the street was filled as parents and relatives waited for news.

Samantha Scarbrough of Jay has a 9-year-old daughter at Spruce Mountain Elementary School and a niece at the middle school. She heard some buses with students were sent to Spruce Mountain Primary School in Livermore.

“The elementary school is locked down, too,” she said. “I don’t know where my daughter is.”

Scarbrough said she had heard four different accounts of the situation. She was worried about her daughter’s emotional state.

“How am I going to deal with that tomorrow?” she asked.

Some parents learned about the situation on Facebook.

Amy Mosher of Livermore Falls learned about it when her husband, Robert Mosher, saw the police cruiser blocking access to the schools on his way to breakfast at McDonald’s. She has a son at the middle school. 

“Why didn’t the school send out an alert saying the school is on lockdown and why and that more information would be provided as it became available?” she asked. “I can’t believe this right now.”

Robert Mosher said the Sheriff’s Department told him it was a prank call and the student was being interviewed.

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