Though no children or staff were ever in danger, three Neosho R-5 District schools were under lockdown, at the request of the Neosho Police Department for a short time on Monday.

Though no children or staff were ever in danger, three Neosho R-5 District schools were under lockdown, at the request of the Neosho Police Department for a short time on Monday.

“We actually locked down Benton School, because the (Newton County) sheriff’s department had went out with a stolen vehicle (report) in the area of (U.S.) 60 Highway and Cemetery Road,” NPD Lt. David Kennedy said. “And the guy ran east through the woods there and it was more of a safety precaution than anything.”

Kennedy said he acted to call the lockdowns, also enacted at the Neosho Center for Intervention and Support (NCIS), because of the many uncertainties.

“We knew that the guy was wanted,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of good information. Just a lot of unknowns, I thought for the safety and everything, put them in lockdown as far as the front doors and stuff just in case he ran that far.”

Once the suspect was apprehended by sheriff’s deputies, Kennedy said the lockdown was ended after a time span of about 20 minutes.

“It’s kind of a strange story,” Newton County Sheriff Chief Deputy Chris Jennings said. “People driving down 60 Highway, they see a car on the side of the road with flashers on. They recognize the car that they had seen on Facebook this morning as being the one stolen. Apparently, whoever lost it put it on Facebook and surprisingly these people saw the car and thought, ‘I think that’s the car.’ So they stop to help the guy, offer to give him a ride and then they call the police and this guy figures out what’s going on and he bails — takes off running.”

Jennings said deputies were able to quickly arrest the suspect after a short chase. He said Joseph Pryor, 22, Joplin, is charged with tampering with a motor vehicle. Since some drugs and paraphernalia were seized from his person, he is also charged with possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“It just wasn’t his day,” said Jennings.

He indicated the car was reported stolen out of Joplin Monday morning. Jennings said deputies were unaware the schools were shut down because of the incident.

“Nothing wrong with that, but we didn’t know anything about that,” he said

Neosho R-5 School District assistant superintendent for business and finance Tim Crawley advised that each of the building principals have the authority and option to close down at any point they think there may be a concern for the safety of any students and staff.

“Both of the cases today was reports by citizens outside of the school district and one was in cooperation with the Neosho Police Department,” said Crawley, who reported that the Field Early Education Center was also under lockdown for a short time Monday.

He said both lockdowns occurred at the authority of the school resource officer, who had been contacted by police about some concerns.

Crawley explained the lockdown at Field was initiated after a concerned citizen called police to report that they saw someone walking around in the neighborhood that had a rifle.

“And it ended up being a BB gun,” he said. “But people are always concerned. With this day and age, people in the community are at a heightened sense of alertness and so they contact the police. When the police called, in both instances, our school resource officer was very quick. He was on the way there and he called me and said, ‘Hey I’ve already put these schools in lockdown.’”

Crawley said the situation at Benton actually had nothing to do with the school.

“The police officers were looking for someone in the area of the schools,” he said. “So while they were looking for people, they asked that we go ahead and lock down the school.”

Crawley said the school district has an over-arching goal to be in protection and provide safety for students and staff. When the decision is made to go into lockdown, he said law enforcement is sent and administrators respond. Police officers — or sheriff’s deputies if the school is not inside city limits — take over charge at that point.

“Once it’s in lockdown, they’re the ones that tell us it’s all clear, all safe to go out of lockdown,” he said.

Crawley said parents are not immediately contacted in such a situation.

“The one thing that we do try to do is not send any additional people there, for that just makes it harder for the police to do their job,” he said. “Because if there is a real incident, that’s one more group of people that the police have to be concerned about protecting — trying to figure out, ‘Are they good or bad?’” Crawley said educational training advises school officials to deal with the situation at hand first while in lockdown, and then share information.

He noted the school district posted a notice on Facebook shortly after the events to alert the public that the lockdowns did occur, but everything was safe. Both lockdowns lasted for under a half hour. Crawley indicated the Benton and NCIS lockdowns were initiated a little after 10 a.m., and Field was closed down at 12:12 p.m.