Belleville East Township High School was locked down Thursday morning following a police chase that ended on the campus of the school, according to school officials.
Two males wanted in connection with vehicle break-ins at the O’Fallon YMCA were captured — one on the Belleville East campus and one on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College. The chase began when Belleville Police spotted the suspects’ minivan at the Belleville East YMCA.
Belleville East freshman Kara McFadden said she was taking a test when the alarm went off.
“My teacher put us in the corner and said, ‘If he gets in here, get whatever you can find, and throw it,’” McFadden said in a Facebook post. “It was really crazy, and we were ready to protect each other no matter what. Crazy day at school.”
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The driver of the van pulled onto the parking lot of the Belleville East campus and attempted to drive onto a footbridge. The driver ran off but was caught in a wooded area.
O’Fallon police said the suspects were wanted in connection with vehicle break-ins that happened Thursday morning at the O’Fallon YMCA. Police put out a broadcast about the suspects’ vehicle, a gray minivan, and Belleville police spotted it at the Belleville East YMCA. Officers approached the vehicle there, and that’s when the chase began.
The vehicle stopped briefly, and a passenger fled the vehicle southbound toward the campus of Southwestern Illinois College. The passenger, a juvenile male, was arrested after a foot pursuit on the campus of SWIC by O’Fallon and Belleville police. The juvenile remained in custody Thursday morning at the Belleville Police Department.
The driver of the minivan fled east on Carlyle Avenue. Police pursued the vehicle a short distance to the parking lot of Belleville East High School. The driver of the vehicle fled into a wooded area on the east side of the campus. The suspect was taken into custody without incident a short time later in the wooded area.
O’Fallon Police Department Officer Eric Buck said several area departments responded with all available resources when the suspect vehicle entered the high school campus.
“When you have an intruder come onto school grounds, the safety of the students is the priority above all else,” Buck said.
Belleville Police said they’re looking into whether the pair could be suspects in recent break-ins that have happened at the Belleville East YMCA.
The school was locked down as a precautionary measure, said Jeff Dosier, superintendent of Belleville School District 201, “It was something we had to do in accordance with our safety plan,” Dosier said.
A dispatcher asked for “all available units” to respond to the school at just before 10 a.m.
Police from O’Fallon, Belleville and St. Clair County were on the scene, along with a canine unit.
An officer was seen handling a paper bag, which he told another officer contained “a couple hundred bucks.”
West Boulevard was closed as the incident unfolded.