A shoplifter who ran from police while parents were waiting to pick up their children at school caused a brief panic on Monday afternoon.

While parents who were in the car line at Laurel Christian School at 12th Street and 16th Avenue saw a man being chased and arrested by Laurel police outside the school, there was high drama inside the high school — until it was learned what was going on.

“Students and teachers were stacking desks against the doors of classrooms,” said one parent who asked not to be identified.

Another parent, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that some students were “hiding in a closet” until they found out why the police cars were there and a K9 unit was out.

“My daughter was freaking out,” she said. “I can’t believe the police didn’t let the school know.”

Calls from parents in the car line to the school office, telling that police were outside chasing a man, led to the lockdown.

“No one knew what was going on,” the parents said.

Capt. Tommy Cox of the Laurel Police Department said that the incident developed too fast to let the school know what was happening. Police got a report of a man who stole items from Walmart and left on foot. When a suspect fitting the description was seen by Lt. Mark Evans at CSpire — across the highway from LCS — Evans approached him and the suspect fled on foot.

“There was no way to know he was going to start running through traffic across the road,” Cox said. “There was no time to stop and tell anyone because they didn’t know that was going to happen. An officer who’s huffing and puffing, trying to run down a suspect probably isn’t the best one to ask at that time.”

The LPD lets officials at schools or daycares know if officers are about to be serving a warrant or doing some sort of potentially dangerous operation nearby. That way, they can make sure children are inside and doors are locked, Cox said, then the LPD notifies them when the operation is complete.

“If the school were in jeopardy, there would have been a bigger response,” Cox said of LCS, citing a recent multi-agency drill it led at Laurel High School to prepare for a possible school shooting.

Cox said he talked to LCS Headmaster Norman Rowe on Tuesday morning about the “best way to get information” to each other. Cox applauded school officials for handling the situation the way they did.

“Being safe is never the wrong thing to do,” Cox said. “It’s nice that they have procedures. That would comfort me as a parent. It sounds like they’re on top of their game.”

In a letter to parents that was emailed that evening, Rowe explained what happened. 

The suspect was apprehended near the soccer field and the school was on lockdown for a little less than 10 minutes, until school officials found out what was going on.

The lockdown was announced on the school intercom, but since the system is being updated, two staff members went door to door to make sure students and teachers got the word and made sure that all exterior doors were locked.

“I know that an event like this can be scary for all of us,” Rowe wrote. “However, we can take confidence that a procedure was in place to deal with a situation such as this and that our faculty and staff implemented the plan quickly and effectively.”

Rowe credited the security training of Larry Rowlett of Presidential Security back in August for having the staff prepared.

“Please know that the safety of your children is a top priority and that LCS will continue to be vigilant in maintaining the security of its students,” Rowe wrote. “We should all pause and give thanks to God that this situation ended as it did.”

Joe Davis, 38, of Laurel was taken into custody and charged with shoplifting, resisting arrest and disobeying a police officer. All are misdemeanors. Davis was accused of taking a T-shirt and a battery-pack phone charger, Cox said.

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