Separate Incidents Lock Down Schools in Martins Ferry, Brooke County

Photo by Miranda Sebroski All is quiet Monday afternoon at Ayers Elementary School in Martins Ferry early Monday evening after police arrested a man suspected of making a threat against specific students there. The school was locked down for a time on Monday.

MARTINS FERRY — Two school districts on opposite sides of the Ohio River put buildings on lockdown for different reasons Monday, but both are expected to operate normally today.

Ayers Elementary School in Martins Ferry was placed on lockdown after a man allegedly directed a threat toward some children there. The suspect was arrested later in the day. In Follansbee, Brooke County Schools placed several of its buildings on lockdown after a man allegedly escaped a deputy’s cruiser near the schools shortly after being arrested for an outstanding warrant.

Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland said Thomas “Tommy” Smith was arrested Monday afternoon after investigators uncovered evidence that he made a threat via social media that led to a lockdown of the school. Smith was at the Belmont County Jail that evening in lieu of $23,500 total bond on charges of aggravated menacing, making terroristic threats, inducing panic and telephone harassment.

Smith’s address was not listed on his arrest record at the jail, but McFarland said the 35-year-old man grew up in Martins Ferry and, to the chief’s knowledge, still resides in the city. McFarland said all charges against Smith are related to private messages he allegedly sent to a woman via social media.

That woman has a child who attends Ayers Elementary and alerted the school administration, according to Superintendent Jim Fogle.

McFarland speculated that Smith previously was involved in a relationship with the woman and got upset after recently communicating with her.

“He commented that ‘your children won’t make it home safe,'” McFarland said of the threatening message allegedly sent by Smith.

Fogle said the school district followed its established procedures for responding to such a situation. He said school officials immediately contacted the Martins Ferry Police Department and locked down the elementary school when he received word of the threat sometime after 10 a.m.

“The school did an excellent job responding to the incident,” McFarland said. “We called extra officers in to help with security. The kids are priority No. 1, and we had to make sure the entire campus was safe.”

In Follansbee, deputies with the Brooke County Sheriff’s Office arrested Dustin Wayne Parsons after attempting to serve a warrant on someone else. In the process, they discovered that Parsons, 24, was wanted on a felony in Wood County.

But after taking Parsons into custody, the deputy left him handcuffed in the back of a cruiser so he could speak with another deputy still inside the apartment at 490 Burgoyne Ave., according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. Parsons allegedly discovered that the center cage had a sliding window that had been left open, and he crawled through the window and escaped the vehicle.

Deputies chased him into a wooded area but lost him, the statement said. While they and members from other law enforcement agencies searched for Parsons, Brooke County Schools placed several buildings on lockdown. They included Brooke Intermediate North, Brooke Primary North, Brooke Middle School and Brooke High School.

With the help of Follansbee police, Wellsburg K-9 and Weirton K-9 units, law deputies were able to find Parsons and take him back into custody. Schools came off lockdown shortly thereafter, the sheriff’s office said.

Parsons was taken to Northern Regional Jail, where he remained Monday night in lieu of $17,500 bond. In addition to the charge out of Wood County, he faces charges in Brooke County of felony escape, fleeing on foot and obstructing an officer.

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