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Police storm Indiana school after threat to shoot students

Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse, left, and Tom Balitewicz, the director of student services for the Vigo County School Corporation, walk out of Terre Haute North High School during a lockdown at the school, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Terre Haute, Ind. Dozens of police officers stormed the school following a reported bomb threat, but law enforcement later said they thought it was a hoax and that everyone was safe. (Austen Leake/The Tribune-Star via AP)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Dozens of police officers stormed a western Indiana high school Friday after a caller claimed he was inside with explosives and a rifle and would start shooting students if he didn’t receive a ransom, police said.

A male called the Terre Haute Police Department about 10:30 a.m. and said he was in a bathroom at Terre Haute North High School armed with a rifle and a bag of explosives, Police Chief John Plasse said hours after authorities determined the threats were a hoax.

The caller said he would begin shooting students if he didn’t receive a ransom within 10 minutes, or if students left the building. Plasse said the caller made other threats after he was transferred to police dispatch.

The school’s 1,800 students and their teachers were told to shelter in classrooms while about 50 officers entered the school, some holding their rifles to their shoulders, ready to fire if needed, the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star reported.

Students were later moved to the school’s gym while a bomb-sniffing police dog checked the entire school, which has 104 classrooms.

After no bombs or weapons were found inside the school, the student body was released just before 3 p.m. to nervous parents who had gathered outside, while other students were taken home by school bus.

Plasse pleaded with the public for help finding the caller and vowed that authorities will bring whoever made the threats to justice.

“We want to track down who did this. It’s an unnecessary event, that put a lot of people in fear today, and we’re going to make sure whoever did this is held accountable for what they did,” he said at a news conference.

Police spokesman Officer Ryan Adamson said he wasn’t at the school as officers arrived following the threats and doesn’t know how many officers had their weapons drawn as they entered the school building. But he added that “anytime you have a suspected shooter like that police are going to enter the building prepared.”

Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Danny Tanoos said police arrived at the school within two minutes of receiving the caller’s threats.

Many parents who heard of the threat came to the school and were deeply worried, he said, as they waited to their children. Tanoos said those parents faced a long wait and he hopes they understand police had to make sure there was no threats in the school.

Plasse said he would never have allowed the children to stay in the school if he had believed they were in danger. He added that he has a daughter who attends the school.

Terre Haute is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Indianapolis.

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