WHEELING - A series of loud noises that residents said sounded like gunshots tore through an Elm Grove neighborhood about 2 p.m. Monday, prompting the lockdown of St. Vincent de Paul Parish School while law enforcement searched the area.
"Someone said it sounded like multiple gunshots in the area," said a police officer on the scene who declined to identify himself. The officer said police immediately checked with all schools in the area and received reports that everything was all right.
The officer said area schools were locked down while police and K-9 units searched the St. Vincent de Paul school perimeter and the nearby Stone Church Cemetery, where witnesses thought the shots had originated.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
Wheeling Police Department officials search the area around St. Vincent de Paul School in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling Monday afternoon.
"I heard them up in back of our house," a female resident said as she waited for news with other people gathered across the street from the school. "My sister heard about six. I heard another four."
Nancy King of Elm Grove United Methodist Church said she was getting ready to pick up her grandson from the school when she heard the sounds.
"I was in the office and I heard the shots or something to that effect," King said.
She added she was glad to hear the students were safe but still worried that the incident had caused the children to become frightened.
"It's still frightening," King said. "These poor babies ..."
Another resident at the scene said she remembered hearing loud noises about a month earlier in the same area. Those sounds turned out to be the result of a military funeral service.
Other people in the crowd outside St. Vincent de Paul school included a husband waiting to pick up his wife who works at the school, a teacher who was supposed to teach a class that afternoon and several people from surrounding homes and businesses.
By 2:32 p.m., officers said the area was safe and "all clear."
Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston which operates the school, said everyone took the proper precautions during the incident.
"The diocese is very pleased with the local police response," Minor said. "We have an outstanding relationship with local law enforcement. In fact, they conducted a training out at the school a few weeks ago when the students were on vacation. The training was for something just like today."