St. Helena Elementary locked down after man tries to enter back door

jkidd@beaufortgazette.com, sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 30, 2013 

St. Helena Elementary School was put on "modified lockdown" Friday after a man tried to enter the school through a back entrance and became angry when he was not allowed inside.

The school's librarian was sitting at her desk when she saw an "older white male" walk up to the library's outside door, according to Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Robin McIntosh. He started knocking and telling the librarian through the door he needed to donate a book. She told him he could only enter the building through a security entrance that leads to the main office, in keeping with Beaufort County School District policy for visitors.

The man became agitated, "took the book and slammed it on the ground outside the door and walked away," McIntosh wrote in an email to The Beaufort Gazette. He got into a white Ford F-250 Super Duty truck with South Carolina license plates and drove away.

The librarian notified principal Ebonique Holloman, who called authorities.

Neither the door nor the building was damaged, and no threats were made, according to McIntosh.

The man did not appear to be armed, school district spokesman Jim Foster said.

Deputies responding to Holloman's call searched the school's exterior but did not find the man or anything suspicious, according to McIntosh.

The school was put under modified lockdown -- classroom instruction continued, but students and staff were confined to their classrooms for the rest of the day, according to Foster. Parents were notified of the lockdown, Foster said, and school staff "apparently handled themselves well and followed proper procedure."

Two deputies provided additional security as students boarded buses or were picked up by their parents, and dismissal for the Labor Day holiday "went off without a hitch," according to Foster.

A check of the man's license plate number indicated the vehicle was registered in Aiken, but attempts to reach the owner by telephone were unsuccessful, McIntosh said.

Deputies searched for the vehicle near the Tuc in the Wood Campground, about three miles from the school, and the Hunting Island State Park campground, which is about 10 miles away. The truck was not spotted.

It's not clear why those campgrounds were searched. McIntosh said further details of "any operational plans that might be made in light of this incident will not be discussed to preserve security integrity."

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