Scottsdale Police reveal what likely set off school lockdowns after reviewing surveillance footage

Two Scottsdale schools were in lockdown after someone reported seeing an armed person on one of the campuses, police said on Dec. 2. Days later, police detailed what was learned after an investigation.

"It was determined through student interviews and a review of video surveillance footage that a student was carrying computer equipment they had checked out from the tech room on campus and not a firearm. After reviewing the video footage, checking school records, and completing interviews, investigating officers were able to determine the student in the video had just gone to the tech room and checked out a laptop and power brick with a cord. While carrying the equipment, a portion of the power brick cord was hanging down and resembled the barrel of a pistol," the police department said.

Scottsdale Police say a student reported to the school resource officer at Cactus Shadows High School that he saw a person with a handgun on campus at about 7:30 a.m. The person in question was identified as a "school-aged person with a limp who was wearing dark-colored clothing and carrying a revolver."

Cactus Shadows and nearby Black Mountain Elementary were placed on lockdown for the investigation.

An initial sweep by numerous officers of both schools did not turn up any suspicious person. They spent more than two hours doing searches, including viewing surveillance footage.

Authorities say one sighting turned out to be someone mistaking an officer inspecting a door lock for a suspect. Parents were asked to stay away for several hours while officers searched the area.

"The reporting student was very cooperative with officers during the entire investigation and there is no reason to believe this was done as a hoax.  The reporting student did exactly what law enforcement encourages people to do: ‘See something? Say something.’ This allows law enforcement and the school to work in partnership to make everyone safe until the situation is resolved," police said.

Parents react to the lockdowns

"I don’t think there’s a worse call or text that you can get," said parent David Johnson. "I think you can see that it’s evident by the amount of cars that are lined up on Dove Valley today and the amount of anxious parents that are out there, signing their children out. We're just grateful that everything ended up safe, and our kids are being released, and we’re going to try to enjoy the rest of our Friday, however that looks." 

He added, "I had one mission today. It was to get my daughter and I bumped into another parent, and they said mission accomplished. And I said yes indeed, it’s a good feeling."

Cactus Shadows remained at shelter-in-place status while all students are released to their parents.

"Everyone was just scattering everywhere, and I didn’t really know what was going on. I was told we are on lockdown and that it was not a drill, so I got pulled into the nurse's office. And I just sat there and waited," said student Tucker Johnson, David's daughter.

Both schools are part of the Cave Creek Unified School District.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cave Creek Unified School District statement

"Our guidance counselors, school social worker and school psychologists are available throughout the day and will be available on Monday to talk with any student that may have a particularly difficult time after this morning’s lockdown. If you feel that your child would benefit from talking with one of our counselors, school social worker, or psychologist, please call us at the school and share your concerns.  

It is important for students and adults alike to report any dangerous or suspicious activity immediately. If you don’t feel comfortable making a report in person, you can always use our anonymous tip line: Please know that school administration receives these notifications during business hours, if you are reporting an emergency, please dial 911 and report to the authorities. 

The safety and security of our students and staff is of utmost importance. Thank you for your continued support as we work to ensure the safety of our students and staff. We are continually looking at opportunities to improve safety procedures and I certainly appreciate your partnership. Please contact the school leadership at 480-575-2400 with any questions or concerns."

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