Hoax calls put Leesville, DeRidder schools on lockdown
Published 7:02 pm Thursday, September 22, 2022
A prank phone call was behind lockdowns at schools across Beauregard and Vernon parishes on Thursday, as authorities say they are continuing to investigate the source behind the hoax “robocalls.”
DeRidder Police Chief Craig Richard said his department was one of many across the state to receive the terrifying phone call reporting an active shooter was inside the high school.
At nearly the same time, a similar call was made to Leesville Police regarding the Leesville High School.
“It’s a call that we have been terrified to get, but have been prepared for. Officers immediately went into action without hesitation,” Richard said.
Through coordinated efforts with the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Beauregard Parish School Board, the DeRidder campus was locked down immediately and officers were on the scene within moments. Local hospitals and hospitals in Lake Charles were placed on alert for possible incoming victims. Surgeries scheduled that day at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital were even canceled as medical staff prepared for the worst.
It was a frightening ordeal for all involved, but Sheriff Mark Herford said it showed the process put in place and practiced multiple times over the summer works.
“We had many drills over the summer, but you never really know until the moment arrives if everything will work right. Today was that moment. Our response times were fantastic and I’m very pleased that even as emotions were high, in a moment that mattered the most our officers and deputies came through to answer the call flawlessly and without hesitation. I’m incredibly proud of their work today,” Herford said.
While Richard said that he is relieved the call was a prank, in its initial moments the call took an emotional toll on everyone involved and for that he and other officials are passionate about finding the person responsible.
“A call like this is infuriating and I want to make sure that the person responsible is identified and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Not only did this cause emotional pain and trauma for those involved, it endangered lives as officers responded to the scene,” Richard said.
The frightening incident played out simultaneously across the state at schools in multiple cities including Alexandria, Monroe, Rayne and several others Thursday morning, and investigators are now working to determine the source.
Louisiana State Police are assisting with the investigation alongside federal agencies, but as of Thursday evening no new information regarding the calls or their sources had been released.
For students and faculty who experienced the frightening moments in lockdown from inside the campus, school officials say they are prepared to help them work through those emotions.
Beauregard Parish Assistant Superintendent Larry Hollie said schools will reopen Friday and operate as normal, with additional counselors at both the DeRidder High School and the DeRidder Junior High.