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Text message threat leads to Gateway Charter HS lockdown, two in custody

Two people were taken into custody Friday after a text message threat created chaos, putting a high school on lockdown for more than four hours.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office had a serious tactical response to Gateway Charter High School, with long guns in tote, after the report of a threatening text. The content of that text is still unknown.

One mother we spoke to was on the verge of tears early during the lockdown. She said got a communication from the school saying there was a threat. She said her son then text her stating they had to hide in the classroom and stay quiet. She added that she can’t feel okay until she’s holding her son.

During the lockdown, LCSO said, “All threats are taken seriously. Safety sweeps are being conducted. Extra precautions are being taken. At this time, a threat has not been located.”

Josh Cutler had his son inside the school, but he also had 15 more boys to worry about. Coach Cutler volunteers with the boy’s basketball team. “Not just that I coach, but I’ve been with for the entire summer that I love. Not as much as my son. But they’ve become an extended family to me and I worried about what was going on and who was involved.”

David Morales and his mom held eachother tight as they walked away from a scary day at school – a day that took a turn during his fourth-period class.

“They said that there was a threat of somebody having a gun,” Morales said. “I was in shock, so I texted my mom.”

As deputies with guns and dogs and lines of panicked parents gathered outside of Gateway Charter High School, students inside sat in safe corners in classrooms or gathered in the cafeteria and the gym, as they waited quietly with so many emotions about what could happen next and who could have threatened their school.

“Just pure anger because why would you do this, like why? What is your reasoning?” student Xavier Hawkins said.

“I was kind of scared. I couldn’t contact my parents because my phone,” student Katherine Machaca said. “I couldn’t answer my phone because it makes noise.”

Morales says they were searched and asked to come forward with the name of the person who made the threat.

“They checked all of the students for weapons,” Morales said. “From what I know, like almost nobody knew who it was.”

But after hours of waiting and wondering, students inside were finally reunited with their parents outside, who waited all day to breathe a sigh of relief and see their kids were safe.

“The full details of it don’t really matter that much to me, just to know that my kid is safe,” parent Amelia Bell-Hawkins. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Texting — the manner in which the threat was delivered — was also a lifeline for panicked parents who had very little information.

Another worried parent said, “My son texted me that he was under a desk, lights were off, and pretty much everyone in the class was crying and freaked out.”

The school’s principal, Amber Jensen, said two people were taken into custody, but the sheriff’s office would not comment on that.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Anika Henanger
Breana Ross
Rich Kolko
Writer:WINK News
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