A man wearing a mask and carrying what turned out to be a rifle-style BB gun was arrested near Winter Street Elementary School on Wednesday morning, the Hagerstown Police Department said.
Officers took Santez Merrell Thomas, 18, of 67 Elizabeth St. in Hagerstown, into custody without a struggle shortly after the call came in at about 11:50 a.m., according to Lt. Paul Kifer.
Thomas was charged with having a prescription with a removed label and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to Washington County District Court records.
Kifer said the incident had nothing to do with the school.
“At no time were the kids in any danger,” Kifer said. “It was not related to the school in any way, shape or form.”
A Washington County Sheriff’s deputy was driving by when he saw a man with a weapon crossing a street near the school, Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman said. The deputy got out of his vehicle, drew his weapon and ordered the man to put his weapon down.
It showed “a lack of good judgment” for someone to openly carry what appeared to be a firearm while walking past a school, Holtzman said. Thomas was wearing a ski mask that covered his nose and mouth, Holtzman said.
“Those two things together will certainly draw attention,” Holtzman said.
Thomas was walking on Winter Street across the street from the school when he was stopped by the deputy, Holtzman said.
Richard Wright, spokesman for Washington County Public Schools, said in an email that “emergency protocols” were followed during the incident.
“The school was placed into a modified lockdown by the principal at the moment he became aware of police activity in the area,” Wright said. “At the time that law enforcement officials contacted the school to brief the principal, the situation was over and the suspect was in custody.”
Kifer said he wasn’t sure why Thomas was wearing the mask, but he could have been wearing it to protect his face from the cold.
About a dozen officers responded to the scene. Police drove the man away in a marked cruiser at about noon. Nearly all of the officers had left the scene by 12:05 p.m.
Kifer said police take any call involving a school very seriously, and that’s why so many officers responded.