By Eric Stock
NORMAL -Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said a Normal Community High School teacher tackled the 14-year-old boy who allegedly fired shots into the ceiling inside a classroom at the school this morning.
Bleichner said the teacher was able to detain the student until officers from the Normal Police Department arrived.
No one was injured in the incident which happened shortly after 8 a.m. on Friday.
Bleichner said a 14-year-old boy was taken into custody.
Bleichner said several people were taken in for questioning, but only one person has been arrested. He said he doesn’t anticipate any more arrests.
Bleichner said the student fired shots from a handgun, but it’s not clear how many shots were fired. He said the student didn’t seem to be targeting anyone in particular.
Police said they haven’t determined a motive in the shooting.
Unit 5′s School Reach system notified parents that shots were fired inside the building and that no one was injured. Niehaus noted that many of those calls went only to home phones. He said the district is working on expanding its School Reach program to reach more people on cell phones.
The school was placed on lockdown for a time until police had the situation under control.
Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus said the school has controlled access, but said the district will review its security policies and didn’t rule out the potential for metal detectors at some point.
“We will see if there’s anything we could do to prevent (something like) this,” Niehaus said, adding that any changes would require approval of the Unit 5 school board.
Niehaus also urged parents and students to be vigilant, to check backpacks and question anything they find suspicious.
Unit 5 officials said as of 4 p.m., all the students have been released to parents or placed on buses. NCHS will be open from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to allow students to get their belongings. After that, Unit 5 officials said the building will be secured once again. Students who don’t get their things Friday can get them Monday.
On Monday, NCHS will have counselors available for students, teachers and staff who many need it.
There will be no after school activities at Normal Community. Tonight’s NCHS football game has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Saturday. The sophomore football game will also be played on Saturday at Normal Community. Time yet to be determined. The district anticipates ACT testing will go forward Saturday morning at NCHS, as planned.
Niehaus posted the following message to the Unit 5 website:
This is to inform you of lockdown situation this morning at Normal Community High School.
I want to start by saying that all students are safe, as that is always our number one priority.
Early this morning a student fired shots into the ceiling at Normal Community. Two students are in custody.
We are working with Normal Police Department and more details of this very troubling incident will be available later today.
There has been no threat to any other school. Normal Community students are relocating to Eastview, but all other schools are experiencing a normal school day.
We will share details as they become available.
WJBC’s Paul Morello and Stephanie Pawlowski were at Eastview Christian Church this morning and spoke to students and parents. One parent was pleased with how the line was moving saying, “Actually this line was really quick. I walked in and got her right away. I know there is a long line now, it happened very quickly.”
Students were pleased with how NCHS and Unit 5 handled the situation. One student described the whole incident like a movie and said everyone moved quickly when Code Red was announced over the speakers.
“I think they did a pretty good job. It was nerve racking for everyone, I mean when we do drills like this we don’t expect, like this will never happen, like I don’t why we do these drills but I’m so glad,” said NCHS student Jessica.
Niehaus said counselors were on hand at the school to assist students. Coincidentally, in what he called a “God moment,” the district’s psychologists and social workers happened to already be at the school for training.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie Pawlowski can be reached at email@example.com.