On November 21st at approximately 10:45 a.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to Southwest Middle School in reference to a "suspicious male" wearing a backpack that was seen by two students with what appeared to be a gun on the edge of campus. One of the students thought the suspicious male had jumped the fence and was on school property. The school was immediately placed on lockdown and approx. 25 police officers, detectives, traffic enforcement and tactical officers responded to conduct an extensive search of the school. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office also assisted on the perimeter and search.
Shortly after 1:00pm, officers located a BB gun in a residential back yard next to the school were the girls saw the subject. Detectives located the man in his home next to the school and he admitted to having the BB gun outside and stated that he did not point the weapon at any of the students. After re-interviewing the students, officers believe he stayed on his own property and did not cross the fence onto school property as reported. No criminal charges were filed and the school lifted its lockdown shortly afterwards.
School Resources Officers and responding patrol officers utilized the rapid response approach which allows for a faster response to situations where a shooter has entered a school and is attacking students and teachers. Within 10 seconds, a detective advised he was at the school and additional police officers were responding from all specialty units throughout the city. Each responding officer acted swiftly and a command post was established, while maintaining a liaison with the administrators at Southwest Middle School during the lockdown.