Police from several towns rushed to schools in Fairfield, Connecticut, on Friday morning after at least three of the town’s 17 public schools received phone calls from someone threatening violence with guns or pipe bombs.
All public schools were placed in lockdown for around two hours, and some private and parochial schools went into some level of secure mode as well.
Police went on alert around 9 a.m. when a man called them claiming to be at a home on Black Rock Turnpike and said he had killed his girlfriend, was holding a hostage and was in possession of guns and pipe bombs.
Officers responded, shut down the street, checked all the houses and determined there was no such address, according to police.
Then, Fairfield schools started receiving gun- and bomb-threat phone calls.
"(We) don't know if the Black Rock Turnpike thing is used as a diversion, or whether it was just in fact part of the plan," said Fairfield police spokesman Lt. James Perez. "But I will tell you that we, as law enforcement officers, take all of these calls extremely seriously because we have to."
Holland Hill Elementary School received a call saying a man was coming down with an M-16, according to police. A threatening call placed to Roger Ludlowe High School claimed there was a bomb in the school, and Fairfield Warde High School received a call reporting pipe bombs scattered throughout the building.
One or two additional schools may have received threats as well, police said.
As they faced the challenge of sweeping 17 schools to ensure the safety of everyone inside, local police received assistance from officers from Westport, Trumbull, Newtown, Easton and Bridgeport as the responded and searched each school Friday morning.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said Friday morning he had been in contact with authorities in Fairfield. His office was monitoring the situation and state resources from several agencies were on standby, Malloy said.
Throughout the morning, police reiterated the request that parents stay at home, and warned they would be turned away if they show up at the schools.
"The kids are locked down and safe right now," Perez said. "There are police officers at every school, and we have our emergency operation center opened up at police headquarters, where we are coordinating our efforts with the fire department, various police departments and other agencies that can help up actually adjudicate or go through all these scenarios."
By late morning, school officials decided to release students from the public schools on an early dismissal schedule, beginning at 11:45 a.m.
Despite the police department's request that parents not to rush to campuses, some students walked out of school to find their parents there, waiting for them.
In interviews outside, some of the students said they had no idea what was going on at first and saw teachers' expressions change to concern when alerts started coming in.
Others said they were anxious and scared, but calmed as the morning went on.
All after school activities for Fairfield Public Schools, including home and away sporting events, scheduled for today are postponed.
As police continue to investigate, they are asking anyone with information about any of the calls to reach out to police and call 203-254-4840.