Picture Rocks Intermediate, Desert Winds Elementary locked down - Tucson News Now

Suspect who forced school lockdowns being sought

A man with a handgun was seen at Picture Rocks Intermediate School at 5875 N. Sanders Road. A man with a handgun was seen at Picture Rocks Intermediate School at 5875 N. Sanders Road.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Investigators are looking for the man who forced two far northwest side schools to be locked down Wednesday.

Picture Rocks Intermediate School and Desert Winds Elementary School were locked down for about two hours after a man, possibly carrying a handgun, was spotted on the Picture Rocks school grounds.

It all started just after 10 o'clock in the morning.

The man was spotted, the call was made to 911 and the schools were locked down.

Parents were notified and started arriving at the school as soon as they could.

They came to take their children out of school early, to take them home.

"I wasn't going to. I was going to--I was going to let them finish out the day, but I just couldn't. I was freaked out," said Latanya Ford as she picked up her children.

Mike Popp left work to get his children.

"So you know those are our babies in there. So I mean, as a parent and all the other parents, we were--we were pretty scared," Popp said.

We're told the first deputies arrived three minutes after the 911 call.

A school employee had spotted something that just wasn't right.

"They had seen a suspicious male individual on the school grounds with what appeared to be a handgun. A school official then apparently approached him. He leaped over the fence took off running in a southerly direction," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Peine.

Soon several law enforcement agencies were conducting an air and ground search.

Inside the two schools, the lockdown continued.

"Throughout the lockdown today we continued to work closely with law enforcement and we were able to continue to communicate to our staff via our intercom system. So we were continuously communicating status," said Marana Unified School District Spokeswoman Tamara Crawley.

Crawley says students have regular drills for just this sort of incident.

In fact, she says Picture Rocks schoolchildren had practiced the drill just last Thursday.

"Today's quick response demonstrates the effectiveness of our emergency procedures. We work very closely with law enforcement We placed a 911 call. We immediately went into lockdown."

Crawley says Marana High School, which is near the two locked down schools, was put into what's called "shelter and place."

She says doors are locked and everyone stays in secure areas of the campus.

The search for the suspect turned up no one.

"We're asking, right now, the public for assistance. If anybody should see this individual in this area, to immediately call 911, let us know of his whereabouts. Do not approach the person because we don't know who we're dealing with" Peine said.

Peine says the suspect is describes as Caucasian with a dark complexion.

He's in his 20's, about six feet tall and very skinny.

He was last seen wearing a light green shirt or jacket and carrying a tan backpack.

The Marana School District says it will have counselors available at the schools that were locked down.

"We treat any situation like this very seriously. What we're going to do tomorrow is we are going to have our district crisis response team on site, working with our school based counselors," Crawley said.

She says the district will continue to communicate with the parents.

Crawley says the students' safety and wellbeing is most important to the district.

She says, at least for the rest of the week, Pima County Sheriff's deputies will have an increased presence in the area of the schools.

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