East St. Louis High School and the township office building were placed on a “soft” lockdown Thursday afternoon amid rumors of a gunman in the area.
East St. Louis School District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver said a student told school staff that a former student was driving around in a stolen truck, heavily armed, and making threats that he would shoot up the school. However, Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, communications director for East St. Louis School District 189, said a phone call was made to the high school threatening a school shooting. No students were involved, to Stigge-Kaufman’s knowledge.
East St. Louis Police Sgt. Mario Fennoy said a rumor was floating around the school that a former student was going to gather up guns and “rescue” students at JTC Academy in Centreville that he felt shouldn’t be there and were being held against their will. JCT Academy is an alternative school that serves a number of local school districts. There was no gunman, and no shots were fired, Fennoy said.
As a precaution, the high school was shut down for the day, and no one was allowed in or out of the building. Students were released at their normal dismissal time at 2:30 p.m. after police determined the threat was not viable, Stigge-Kaufman said.
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East St. Louis Police were seeking a person of interest, but had not taken anyone into custody as of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Fennoy said.
East St. Louis Police asked Illinois State Police to help patrol the area until school was dismissed Thursday. Police were patrolling in and around the two schools until classes were dismissed.