Troy school shooter alarms were errors; panicked students ran, helped each other

Troy HS alarm accidentally triggered twice; school staff helped, kids hid, jumped out windows in “scariest experience”

Troy High School dismissed students for the day after a false active shooter alert was activated over the school PA system two separate times more than an hour apart Friday morning, sending students running from the building.

The first alarm was activated around 7:30 a.m. as students were arriving and getting to class, which starts at 7:40. A substitute teacher accidentally triggered the school’s emergency alert system, according to a statement from Troy City Schools.

“All of our staff and students did exactly as they should have, either by fleeing the building or sheltering in place,” the district said.

Troy senior Connor McGillivray-Sumner was among multiple students who said they had never heard that particular warning over the PA before — a “robotic” recorded voice repeating “active shooter, active shooter, evacuate.”

The schools’ statement said school resource officer Zach Hook, a member of the Troy Police Department, quickly went to the room where the alarm was activated and determined it was a false alarm. They said he alerted police that no additional law enforcement response was needed.

But students said the moments immediately after that first alarm were chaotic. Senior Nicholas McKibbin said the teacher he had been talking to got a group of students inside a classroom and they barricaded the door and closed the blinds.

“We waited fearing the worst. All of the kids started texting loved ones,” McKibbin said, adding it was close to 10 minutes later when the “false alarm” announcement came over the PA.

Troy senior Autumn Bowers said she was in the commons area with dozens of students when the alarm went off. She said past school safety drills have focused on what to do in a classroom, and that the students in the commons weren’t sure where to go.

Bowers and McGillivray-Sumner both said the situation got much worse when a large door loudly slammed against the wall, sounding to some like a gunshot.

“We booked it. People pulling up to school were opening their (car) doors and yelling, get in, get in. I ran down to the funeral home across the street and hid behind someone’s car with this group of people,” Bowers said. “People are running everywhere, people are jumping out of second story windows (onto the school roof). ... That was probably the scariest experience of my high school time.”

The district announced after the first false alarm that students who were upset could go home and have their absence excused. Some went home, while others stayed.

Then, around 9 a.m., the same substitute teacher accidentally activated the alarm again, and many students fled across the street to the stadium.

“[The] initial report is that it was set off by the same staff member who was demonstrating to students what they did the first time,” Troy police Chief Shawn McKinney said. “Officers were still inside the high school and immediately responded to the room, determining it was a false alarm.”

Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper said the alarm is triggered when a series of keystrokes are entered on the classroom keyboard.

“The goal is to make it easy enough for a teacher to do under duress, but difficult enough so it doesn’t happen like it did today,” Piper said. “... We will need to talk with the people in the room at the time, as well as our technology department, to find out how and why this happened at all, let alone twice.”

After the second false alarm, the school dismissed students for the day. Counselors will be available Monday for any students who need them.

“This was a series of incredibly unfortunate and upsetting events,” Piper said. “We would first and foremost like to apologize to all of our families who have been affected by this. We are also incredibly proud of our students, staff and Officer Hook for doing exactly what they are supposed to do. We cannot emphasize that enough. Our students and staff handled this exactly like they should have. We feel it is important to have an emergency plan in place, but will be working with the Troy Police Department and our staff members to evaluate that process moving forward.”

Lucas Hope, a student at the high school, said he was in the commons area when the first announcement said there was an active shooter.

“Everyone just ran,” he said.

Hope hid in a random car with other students, and they later drove away from the school. His mother, Donna Rue, said she had just dropped him off and was pulling away from the school when she saw kids running and a girl crying.

She asked another student she knew what was going on, and he said there was an active shooter, she said.

When she first texted and called her son, she didn’t get a response, but he later texted her that he had gotten into a random car to get away.

“It’s scary. You don’t think it’s going to happen at Troy High School or locally,” Rue said. “But I do feel safe and I think [the district] did everything correctly. I’m thankful everything is OK.”

David Elder, another student, said the first alarm went off as he was heading toward the band room, and he wasn’t sure if it was real or a drill.

“We just ran into the locker room to be safe, and as time went on we realized this was serious,” he said. “We were genuinely scared.”

Once he learned it was a false alarm, Elder said he was upset.

“I was scared for my life,” he added. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

He planned on trying to stay for the rest of the school day, but after the second alarm went off he decided he would go home.

Elder praised the student body and teachers for making sure everyone was somewhere safe. However, he said the school typically does active shooter drills while in class, so some students were confused and didn’t know what to do when the first alarm went off before class started.

Elder said he would be able to return to school Monday, but he might not feel OK for awhile.

“I will definitely be on edge for the next few weeks,” he said.

Contributing writer Nancy Bowman added reporting on this story.