Druid Hills High student in custody after lockdown

Reports of armed suspect also shut down Emory University for hours

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Officials praised students at Druid Hills High School after they told their principal Thursday they suspected one of their classmates had a gun, triggering a lockdown at the school and shelter-in-place orders at nearby Emory University.

Druid Hills High was locked down just after 10:30 a.m. as police searched the school for the student, DeKalb County School District police Chief Bradley Gober said at a news conference addressing the incident. The student, who is a minor, was taken into custody by Emory University police on the college’s campus just before 4 p.m., Gober said, and the gun at the center of the search was recovered about a half an hour later.

The student will be charged with carrying a gun in a school safety zone and aggravated assault, although the reason behind the assault charge was not disclosed.

The search began when a group of Druid Hills High students went to the principal’s office and said they believed another student might have a gun, Gober said. The principal immediately notified the school resource officer and his staff, and the school was locked down as police looked for the student and the weapon.

The lockdown was lifted around noon after the school was cleared, but officers learned there was a possibility the student was in a park or some nearby woods, Gober said. Police reached out to the student’s family and attempted to find him by tracking his phone’s location.

When police learned the student might have gone onto the Emory campus around noon, university students and staff were notified of the threat. A text alert sent to students ordered them to shelter in place. School officials kept the orders in place until 2:20 p.m. when another text was sent out with an all-clear message.

Gober said the student was ultimately found by Emory police.

According to Gober, the student did not have a gun in his possession when he was taken into custody but admitted to having it earlier and helped police locate it. In a later announcement, officials said the weapon was found in the woods near North DeKalb Mall.

Shannon Gomez, a junior a Druid Hills High School, said she was locked down for about two hours in her second-period class as a large police presence swelled on campus and helicopters circled overhead. She said officers came into the room with a photo of a student as they searched.

“It wasn’t my first lockdown, so unfortunately I’m used to the feeling of someone possibly coming to school to harm either a teacher or us,” Gomez said.

Sophomore class president Shanti Rodriguez-Pedraza described an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety as students’ phones were simultaneously flooded with texts from concerned parents. Her student government colleague Charlie McAdoo III said the incident interrupted their critical end-of-year AP exams and students were not sure how the testing would be resolved.

Gober praised the Druid Hills students who made the initial report to their principal, calling it a “perfect example of how our students take their safety very seriously.”

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Hospital was also placed under lockdown in coordination with the university, a spokesperson said.

An early tweet from the university warned of an active shooter, but it was deleted and rephrased to warn of an armed suspect instead.

— Staff writers Matt Bruce and Cassidy Alexander contributed to this article.