American News Apr 28, 2021 6:44 AM EST

Seattle school goes into lockdown after firearm spotted in homeless encampment on campus

Neighbors reported multiple police cruisers responding to the Broadview-Thompson K-8 school in Seattle Tuesday afternoon in response to a suspected firearm spotted in a homeless encampment on the property.

Seattle school goes into lockdown after firearm spotted in homeless encampment on campus
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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Neighbors reported multiple police cruisers responding to the Broadview-Thompson K-8 school in Seattle Tuesday afternoon in response to a suspected firearm spotted in a homeless encampment on the property. Five police cars responding to the incident were spotted by neighbors.

At approximately 1 PM, a man in the encampment was seen by the school’s security guard "with what appeared to be a firearm on the other side of the fence," according to the schoo'sl principal. At the time there were students outside the building. A chain link fence is all that separates the encampment from the school.

The principal of the school. Tipton Blish, said in an email to parents Tuesday night that "We moved a class that was outside during recess and students from Big Blast, our on-campus childcare partner, into the building and went into shelter in place, and we called 911."

According to the principal, classes continued as normal but "as always, all of our outside doors are locked." Police officers remained on campus until all students were dismissed from the front entry/exit, which is the farthest access/egress point from the encampment. Thankfully, the weapon turned out to be a pellet gun. Other weapons have been spotted in the encampment including swords. A parks department worker was recently threatened by one of the campers while cleaning out trash.

Students who returned to in person learning at Broadview Thomson K-8, earlier this month for the first time in over a year found a homeless encampment with over 40 tents waiting for them on the campus. The encampment has been there since July and is one of two Seattle Public Schools that has reported encampments on the grounds.

Since the first day back, the encampment has grown and the Seattle School Board refuses to have it removed. Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson threatened volunteers with trespassing who were distributing leaflets to returning parents regarding the encampment on campus and school officials’ refusal to address it.

City officials and school board members have declined to meet with the group of neighbors, parents and employees who are seeking to address the encampments. In emails sent by neighbors and employees to The Post Millennial, Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf demanded Mayor Jenny Durkan not allow the encampments to be removed from school grounds.

"I want to state very clearly this is not an ask for a sweep! I do not believe in sweeps. People experiencing homelessness need housing and resources not traumatic sweeps of their livelihoods and belongings. I understand that the Council has allocated and assigned a lot of funding to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. BUT we do need some support — we are bringing students back to classrooms and school buildings/campuses in a matter of a few weeks. Do you have any ideas for how to help?"

Hampson and DeWolf published a joint statement condemning any potential removal of encampments from school property or anywhere else in the city "We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City." Meanwhile, SPS superintendent Denise Juneau admitted in an email to neighbors obtained by The Post Millennial that "We realize people living unsheltered in encampments can create health and safety hazards for their occupants and the general public."

The school locked a fence between the campers and the building. School employees, parents and neighbors have told The Post Millennial that they have seen drug use, used needles and the danger presented to students and families. King County vans have been spotted near the property giving out boxes of needles to addicts.

The locked gate prevents access for parents and caregivers dropping off their children including at least one elderly grandparent trying to get his grandchild to school. The school was also forced to hire security, after Seattle Public Schools ended their relationship with the Seattle Police Department last year in the wake of the death of George Floyd and demanded no officers on campus.

Neighbors told The Post Millennial that a woman died of an overdose at the encampment in February and that her body lay in the street for hours. They have also reported theft and ongoing drug issues in the community mostly populated by families and the elderly. Dead rats have been seen in the encampment tied to sticks. The encampment is also located on a protected environmental area next to a lake, which residents say is being polluted by the campers.

Broadview Thompson was one of two Seattle Public Schools that had reported encampments on campus. The encampment at Meany Middle School was cleared by the City of Seattle last week. The custodian and safety and security specialist had “dangerous interactions” with campers who living just outside the building. One teacher claimed one of the campers pulled a knife on the custodian and campers had allegedly broken into the school and taken electronics from a classroom.

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