SANFORD, Maine - Distraught parents waiting to be reunited with their children at Memorial Gym after a hoax active shooter call put Sanford High in lockdown on Tuesday complained about being kept in the dark during the event but a Sanford Police spokesperson said that was by design.
"We air on the side of caution for these types of calls and needed to make sure the school had been properly swept before it was considered safe," Sanford Police Lt. Matthew Gagne told The Rochester Voice on Wednesday. "At the gym where the kids were bused, we had to make sure that didn't become a target."
When The Voice was at the gym waiting for the students to arrive, some parents were regularly texting with their loved ones and seemed more relaxed, while others appeared more pensive, some even grim.
Making matters more tense were widely circulated social media posts that said two adult males had done the shooting and five students had been gravely injured, neither of which was true.
One woman who was extremely distraught at the gym said her son had texted her, "We have an active shooter in the school. This is not a drill. I love you."
The hoax call came at 8:20 a.m. drawing between 75 and 100 police officers to the Sanford High and the Sanford Regional Technical Center, according to Gagne.
One Rochester Voice reader called in to report they were headed east from Sanford on 109 and were just into the town of Wells when seven cruisers from multiple law enforcement agencies raced by in the opposite directions at speeds estimated at over 100 mph.
Sanford Schools Superintendent Matthew Nelson said he was astonished and grateful for the speed at which law enforcement arrived on scene.
"We are very grateful for the swift response," Nelson said. "And everyone at the school did just what they were supposed to. From the teachers to staff to students, they all did it exactly like we do when we have these types of drills."
Gagne said once they established the call had been a hoax they still had to clear both the high school and the tech center, which took about an hour. It was determined to be a hoax around 9:15 a.m.
Gagne noted that he wasn't sure about what information was being shared between lawmen at the two schools and at the gym.
"Officers at the gym were there for scene security, and we couldn't release the kids without a head count," he said. "I'm not sure what was being given to them for information about what was happening at the school. Communication during these types of events is always difficult, and we always learn new ways to improve our responses and tactics."
Nelson said coincidentally, they were scheduled to have an emergency drill on Friday, but given what happened Tuesday, it's been canceled.