HEFLIN, Ala. — An Opelika man remains in the Cleburne County Jail after police say he tried to sneak into a local high school posing as a “new student”.
Heflin Police Chief A.J. Benefield says 23-year-old David Samuel Blackwell now faces charges for third degree burglary and interfering with government operations. Two 18-year-old and 17-year-old male students will also face aiding and abetting charges in connection with the incident.
Chief Benefield says the three all walked into Cleburne County High School at about 8 a.m. Tuesday when they were stopped by the school principal. When the principal asked who Blackwell was, he claimed he was a “new student”. Benefield says when the principal tried to take Blackwell to the office, Blackwell took off running inside the school.
Police say officers were called to the school while staff searched the grounds for the suspect. Benefield says Blackwell was caught shortly afterwards by one of the high school’s sports coaches, but the school remained on hard lockdown for about two hours while police cleared the area of any threats.
“We initially didn’t know why he was there and we didn’t know if he had a weapon, so yes we did put the school on lockdown and evacuated about 1300 people from inside to be safe,” Chief Benefield says.
Police confirm neither Blackwell, nor the two students he was with were armed.
“From what we understand, this all started as a practical joke,” Benefield says. “But when they were stopped, [Blackwell] took off running, and that caused chaos and confusion, so we were called in to assess the threat.”
Cleburne County High School has since received backlash on social media by concerned parents who say they should have been notified as soon as the threat was noticed. A response by the Heflin Police Department on Facebook says the school staff followed procedure and “they all took immediate actions for the safety of all students and faculty.”