'Malfunctioning water heater' sparked reports of active shooter at North Carolina high school
Topsail High School in Hampstead, as well as surrounding schools on the eastern side of Pender County, were put on lockdown after reports of an active shooter
Reports of an active shooter at the Topsail High School in Hampstead, North Carolina, were proven to be false after it emerged that a malfunctioning heater was the source of the gunfire-like sound. The police received reports of an active shooter within the premises at around 6:30 am on Friday morning, though an investigation would soon prove that it was just a false alarm.
WECT reported the comments of commissioner George Brown, who said that a piece of mechanical equipment that has been malfunctioning in the past few days and that it sounded like gunfire when it made noise. Pender County Emergency Director Tim Collins similarly said there was no active shooter and that he believed a malfunctioning water heater had caused the disturbance. He said the heater "sounded just like an AR-15 [semiautomatic rifle] going off."
There was a report of an active shooter situation at Topsail High School this morning after noises were heard coming from the top of the building. Law enforcement responded immediately and it has been determined there is no shooter and no weapon. 1/2— Pender Schools (@penderschools) 9 November 2018
The school confirmed that the situation had been defused, writing on Twitter, "There was a report of an active shooter situation at Topsail High School this morning after noises were heard coming from the top of the building. Law enforcement responded immediately and it has been determined there is no shooter and no weapon."
The reports of a shooting had resulted in Topsail, as well as a number of surrounding schools on the eastern side of Pender County, being put into lockdown, with the district "taking all precautions to ensure the safety of students and staff." TIME stated that multiple units from the Pender County Sheriff's Office were on the scene within minutes of receiving the call.
As the police canvassed the school in search of the shooter, students and parents are said to have gathered at a Lowe's Foods across the street. The school district reportedly instructed staff at the Topsail High School to meet them at the grocery store.
An update from law and @PenderCounty_NC --- A lot of rumors circulating on social media over last few hours ... BOTTOM LINE: NO GUN, NO SHOOTER, NO INJURIES ... a malfunctioning piece of equipment (water heater) at school responsible for "gun shot" like sounds at Topsail HS— Joe Catenacci (@JoeCats19) 9 November 2018
Capt. James Rowell said there were no injuries reported from the incident. Rowell also said crews are still searching the building as a precaution but they have found no evidence of an active shooter at this point.
“I was sure it was not gunfire over an hour ago,” Commissioner David Williams, who is also the assistant coach for the varsity football team, told WECT News. “I also coach football there. Lately (during practice), we’ve been hearing a piece of mechanical equipment go ‘bam bam bam.’ It made us the first time we heard it turn around.”
Williams also said he has heard the sound in person and can understand how someone might hear it and make a report, adding that the law enforcement's response was 100% correct. "They did exactly the right thing," he said. "Law Enforcement did what they’re supposed to do. There’s no such thing as an over response."