Man Enters School, Uses John, Leaves: “We Decided NOT to Put School in Lockdown.” Gee: Why Not?

Oh Readers —  I can’t take it. Look at this crazy “news” story from the Cortez Journal in Colorado: An unidentified man entered a high school. He used the bathroom, left and asked some students to give him a ride, which they did.  Said the paper: 

No weapons were visible on the man, who was dressed in black, but he was carrying a black duffle bag, Cortez Police Department Chief Roy Lane said.

Despite rumors, the man was not wearing a mask or anything to conceal his face, Lane said. No one was injured, and no property damage occurred.

Is that the definition of a NON-STORY or what? And yet, get this!

Officials did not feel it was necessary to place the school on lockdown after the suspect had already vacated the premises.

In other words: If the stranger were still ON the premises, the whole place would have gone into LOCKDOWN? Furthermore:

The suspect is described as a 6-foot, thin male in his early 20s with dark brown straight hair grown over his ears.

“We’re just as concerned as the parents,” Lane said. “We  would ask anyone with information to call us. Even if they’re not sure who it is, if they think they might know, give us a call.”

SUSPECT? Suspect suspected of what? Evacuating his bladder in a bathroom? Using paper towels he did not pay for? Breathing while male? Shiver me timbers! I sure hope they catch him before he strikes again! – L.


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46 Responses to Man Enters School, Uses John, Leaves: “We Decided NOT to Put School in Lockdown.” Gee: Why Not?

  1. ninejacknine December 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    That is a non-story, but I’d hesitate before blaming the school–it sounds like it’s the paper’s fault.

    The school acted appropriately confronting a stranger inside the school during school hours, the man identified himself, the students identified where he likely lives. There’s no mystery here and the man committed no crime other than possibly when he “excited [sic] the building.”

    The article is trying to exploit general fears for children’s safety and in the process is contributing to a culture that fears unnecessarily. This is why small town journalism has a bad name. Yes, it would have been nice if the principal and the police chief had the guts to tell the reporter he was making mountains out of mole hills, but you can hardly expect a reporter to write a story about how “this reporter completely overreacted and then received a smack down from the chief of police.”

  2. Chris December 7, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    What about the kids who gave him a ride. Shouldn’t they be strung up for endangering themselves? Doesn’t sound like the reporter even asked them if they knew him, high-schoolers don’t usually give rides to strangers. According to Wikipedia Cortez, CO has a population of about 8000 people, how hard could it be to find him. I bet if you flipped through a few old yearbooks they’d find him pretty quick, probably a former student. Who else would know to cut through a band room entrance, through the commons, out the other side to where the students have their cars.

  3. Chris December 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    And apparently they have problems at this school with drugged smoothies.

  4. michelle December 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Could you imagine what they would have done to him if he’d peed on a bush outside? Not long ago there was an incident in a mall parking lot here when a mom let her newly potty trained 3 year old pee in the parking lot because he couldn’t make it back into the mall bathroom. They cited her for child endangerment because “what if one of those parked cars MOVED!” And that was only because they couldn’t cite a 3 year old for indecent exposure which is what they wanted to do.

  5. ShadowL December 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    @chris RE: drugged smoothie.

    Makes me wonder if the teacher had ever had FRUIT before.


    “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large (maybe it should be BORED) groups.

  6. Nanci December 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    This reminds me of the time I was in college and locked myself out of my house. My parents were at work and this was way before cell phones. After sitting on the porch for a while I was thirsty and walked about a mile to my former elementary school (a walk I took many times while attending that school.) I went in used the bathroom and got a drink. I even ran into one of my former teachers and talked with her. That was 15 years ago, now days the school is locked during the day and you must buzz to get in and then report to the office, sign in and get a visitor badge. I highly doubt they would give someone one who wanted to use the bathroom and get a drink :)

  7. Matt L. December 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    HA! I bet it was an alum. Typically the bathrooms in the high schools I have been in aren’t always so easy to just happen upon if you simply walk through the front door.

    This could so easily have been me, visiting the old hometown seeing friends maybe checking out old stomping grounds. Maybe wandering inside to take a leak. Why so scary? He probably loosely knew the kids he asked for a ride, it being a town of 8000 and all.

  8. Jules December 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    He’s probably a former student who was out and about, had to pee, and figured he could use the bathroom in his own school.
    I remember when I was in high school, and former students would come and go as they pleased, visiting their old teachers and what-not.
    Times are changing indeed.

  9. Michelle December 7, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Is it wrong that the thing that bothers me most about the article is the lack of proofreading?

    “He then excited the building, and he reportedly approached a group of students….”

  10. Chris December 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    @Michelle – Maybe that is what all of the fuss in about. We all self-corrected and assumed he exited the building, but maybe he actually did excite the building. That has to be a crime, doesn’t it.

  11. Mike B December 7, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    Maybe the editor intentionally left the phrase “excited the building” as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of how silly this all is?

  12. Andrew Pickett December 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Look on the bright side: the folks in Cortez seem to live in a town so peaceful and idyllic that all they have for news is things that *didn’t* happen. “Man Visits Bathroom, Flushes; Greets Friends.” “Woman Drinks Smoothie, Fails to Fall Ill in Any Way.” It’s kind of sweet, really.

    I knew it was time to move back to Canada from Manchester, UK (stabbings downtown most weekends) when I skimmed online local news headlines from my hometown, and they were mostly about toll highways and potato disputes.

  13. Bernadette Noll December 7, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Funny thing is the same thing happened at my kids’ elementary school! Because we live in the south the hallways are outdoors – so are the entrances to the bathrooms. A man came in off the street and used the john then left the campus. Lockdown drills. New rules about going to the bathroom alone. All kinds of hysteria and letters of concern to the principal. Because a man needed a restroom. Yes, he was homeless but have you ever tried to find a public john in an urban area? It aint easy.

  14. Uly December 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Perhaps the building was, uh, happy to see him. Inciting inappropriate feelings in a school building can’t be good.

  15. SKL December 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Why, when I went to high school, there were students in their early 20s. Not many, I grant you, but – what is the big danger?

  16. Susan December 8, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    This reminds me of something that happened in our large suburb (250,000 people) a few years ago. We have large parks in our town . They probably have 20 soccer fields at one park. In the middle of all of the fields are outdoor bathrooms.

    One morning, in the midst of hundreds of kids playing soccer, a mom takes her daughter to the bathroom. She walks in the women’s bathroom and a man runs out of it. That is the entire story.

    However, I received e-mails from other moms warning me about the incident. It was on the 10:00 news (in Dallas!!!).

    A mother at a soccer game brought up the incident to me a few months ago because I was letting my 4 year old son play with a bunch of other boys while I watched my daughter play a game on an adjacent field. However, when she mentioned it to me she said, “It was a man in the bathroom molesting kids.”

    Sometimes I think that we have become such news junkies that we salivate upon hearing about anything that might actually be an interesting occurrence and are disappointed if it isn’t actually a tragedy.

  17. Uly December 8, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Oh, SKL, over here in NYC if you’re older than 19 before you graduate (or likely to be when you get to that point) they put you in an alternative high school so that the adult students don’t mingle too much with the not-yet-adults. The alternative high schools don’t take students under 16.

  18. Kim December 8, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Susan…a suburb of 250,000? I live in a city that thinks it’s decent sized and our population is about 250,000! And that’s a city! I grew up in a small village with a population of 1,500. The city we were a suburb of had a population of about 60,000. Funny.

    The small village where I grew up has all grades K – 12 on the same campus. The last time I visited was about 6 years ago and I just walked in during lunch hour and wandered around. Technically you can go right in the front door and you’re supposed to get a pass at the office but I doubt anyone does. Everyone knows everyone there. I’ve been out of school for over 20 years and they still know who I am, despite the fact that I don’t even live in that state anymore! One day I tried to visit during a non-lunch period and found the back doors locked. I didn’t feel like going all the way to the front door, so I knocked on the door and one of my former teachers just let me right in, no questions.

    My school was also a voting location. School did not close on election day. We had the entire village in and out the doors throughout the day every election day.

    Gotta love small towns.

  19. Nicola December 8, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    @Kim: I live in Albuquerque, about 800k people, and we still hold polling in our schools. :) Happy to say, though, that our schools haven’t completely gone over to hysteria… probably because they have more pressing things to worry about… like one of the highest dropout rates in the country or the absolute lack of funding to the point they’re considering dropping sports. Ahhh, yes. Homeschooling is looking better and better all the time.

  20. Larry Harrison December 8, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Oh my goodness. Lenore, if you can afford it (and I’m assuming you can), I think maybe you need to hire a massage therapist or go on a cruise to help you relax. We would miss your updates, but if I had to highlight all the insanity of the world as oten as you do, I think I’d go mad.

    I say all this NOT because I think you’re overreacting or making a mountain out of a molehill, because in fact I agree with you 100%, I just sympathize with how hard this must be for you to have to see so much insanity, especially when you’re someone who makes it a point to dig it up & comment on it.

    I love your sarcasm at the end. It is completely ridiculous how much people overreact to such things. The hysteria is crazy–and uncalled for.

    For those that like to say “times have changed,” and operate under the assumption that “well, in the old days, you didn’t have to worry about this kind of stuff,” I invite you to Wikipedia this–Bath School Disaster. This is the worst add of mass murder on a campus in history, ever, even surpassing Columbine and the Virginia Tech Massacre.

    The punch line? It happened in 1927.

    But people didn’t lose their senses, and there’s no need for them to keep losing them now.

    (And yes Michelle the spelling errors irk me too.)


  21. View Points December 8, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    We are either a war-torn country on lockdown with snipers behind every bush…

    Or…many citizens and governing officials are in reality escaped lunatics from mental institutions. You know that old saying about the Inmates running the asylum…

  22. EricS December 8, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    Again, the media is blowing things way out of proportion. The way I see it, this guy didn’t commit any crime, other than a possible trespassing violation. But from the sounds of the accounts, he knew his way around the school. I’ve gone to visit my old highschool (this was before they implemented signing in the office). I’d walk around the old hallways, reminiscing. I was approached by a teacher at one point, I told her my name and pointed to a team picture with me in it. As soon as she realized I was an alumni, we talked for a little bit about how things were back then, and how I saw it now. Then she said “welcome back, glad to have you here”, then went on her merry way. I did manage to see a couple of my old teachers, who surprisingly remembered me.

    But I digress. He came in, took a leak, walked out. It’s not like he hid himself, and lingered around. He identified himself, and the kids that gave him a left know of his last whereabouts. If that’s suspicioius, call me “Maggie”. I’ve seen far more suspicious acts like that that don’t even see the bottom of the classified pages. A classic case of something out of nothing. Now if he had been frequenting coming in or hanging around the property of the school. Mingling with the students each time. THEN that would be considered “suspicious”. A one time deal with no incident? That’s like me walking by anyone here and blowing a fart. You’ll smell it, make a comment, then get on with the rest of your day.

  23. Arianne December 8, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    @ Andrew Pickett, LOL!!! I love those headlines!

  24. Matt L. December 8, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    if the headline read : LOCAL MAN ENTERS PUBLIC BUILDING, PEES, LEAVES this would be on the onion. Love it when the real media and the onion come within inches of each other.

  25. Dean December 8, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    Couldn’t happen at my old HS, unless the visitor scaled the new 12-foot fences or ran a gauntlet of bureaucracy: sign in, get a visitor badge, show it to security personnel, etc.
    The school has a “homecoming football game” each fall, but alumni are not welcome unless they are parents of current students.

  26. Kimberly December 8, 2010 at 2:24 am #

    “Officials did not feel it was necessary to place the school on lockdown after the suspect had already vacated the premises.”

    Dollars to doughnuts that this statement was in response to “Did you go into lockdown?” or “Why didn’t you go into lockdown?”

    You have to understand that most of these press releases are to stop rumors that start with the kids going home with half baked information.

    Student one asked me can I wear this and shows me a save the boobs wrist band.

    Me – yes as long as it stays on (response to kid causing disruption with something else a couple days before)

    2 days later I get an e-mail from student 2’s father wanting to know why I’m requiring the students to buy and wear the $10 bands.

    Me – WHAT and e-mail complete story without student 1’s name.

    Less reasonable parent calls the news instead and if it is a slow day we have channel 13 camping on our door step.

  27. pentamom December 8, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    Okay, so the school has no mechanism to prevent people from walking in — but if someone walks in, it’s almost-lockdown time?

    Isn’t that a bit backwards? Just keep the doors locked and use a buzzer system if unauthorized people coming in is considered THAT big of a potential danger. If the school isn’t locked to begin with, then obviously you might think unauthorized people come in is to be discouraged, but it makes no sense to treat it as an emergency if it’s something you put no significant effort into preventing.

    And “the suspect?” What is he suspected of? Walking through an unlocked door into a public building and using the unlocked facilities?

  28. Maggie December 8, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    I love the “suspect” in the end. What exactly do they suspect him of? Having a full bladder?

    If he peed outside, he could have been arrested for indecent exposure and his name would have been on the sex offenders list. He does the logical thing, finds the nearest restroom. Big deal.

  29. Maggie December 8, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    I also wonder, if it had been a middle-aged woman who went inside, used the bathroom, and left, would this even be an issue?

  30. Liz December 8, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    I’m mixed on this one, honestly. In a high school carrying a duffle bag looks like a decent possibility of being a drug dealer, an actually legitimate and common problem on high school premises. The article is certainly sensationalistic, but “we prefer not to have a vaguely sketchy looking kid in black wandering around on campus” doesn’t seem totally crazy to me.

    I agree that calling someone a suspect because they walked in and used the bathrooms is over the top, but I never met a high school that didn’t have a drug problem, which makes the effort to keep a strange, slightly sketchy looking young guy off the premises a little bit more understandable. Kidnapper/rapist/whatever fantasies may be statistically improbable, but a meth dealer scouting for clients is downright likely.

  31. pentamom December 8, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    “The article is certainly sensationalistic, but “we prefer not to have a vaguely sketchy looking kid in black wandering around on campus” doesn’t seem totally crazy to me.”

    Leaving aside that some of the students probably fit that description…..they don’t prefer it enough even to LOCK THE DOORS? This is what makes no sense. Either every unknown guy who walks in the door is a potential danger or some kind, OR you just leave the doors open all day. Both can’t co-exist in any rational system.

  32. BrianJ December 8, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    @Liz – “vaguely sketchy” is a problem. What defines that? How was this person “vaguely sketchy?” He wore black? He was male? He wasn’t cute in that all American boy sort of way?

    We either lock the door (which might be prudent) or we don’t freak out when people walk in. Or we tell people who look “vaguely sketchy” to never been seen in public for fear that they might be labeled as being “up to no good” and therefore subject to “interrogation.”

    (and yes, I get that the quotes are over the top)

  33. Nicole December 8, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    How silly! I also suspect he’s a former student, had to use the bathroom, and figured the school’s bathroom was fair game.

    This would be a non-story if he wasn’t wearing black, IMHO. Or was a woman.

  34. Cyn December 8, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    If the man was a local, then he likely DID pay for those paper towels… and the water… and the electricity… and the facilities… and even the school. Or at least contributed to them. Even apartment dwellers wind up paying property taxes (through their rent).

  35. Sky December 8, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    “Leaving aside that some of the students probably fit that description…..they don’t prefer it enough even to LOCK THE DOORS”

    Kids go outside during breaks and lunch and such. He could easily just walk in then. You can’t keep all of the doors locked all of the time when students are in and out to. Students have to go out to the outdoor classrooms, for P.E., etc. – surely no high school has all of its doors locked all of the time?

    A young man carrying a duffel bag alone in a school where he is not enrolled and did not check in is frankly a very reasonable profile for a drug dealer. That said, it shouldn’t have been treated as a horrifying terror story. Probably the police would want to at least look into the incident, preferably quietly. The story is certainly sensationalized.

  36. pentamom December 8, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    “Kids go outside during breaks and lunch and such. He could easily just walk in then. You can’t keep all of the doors locked all of the time when students are in and out to. Students have to go out to the outdoor classrooms, for P.E., etc. – surely no high school has all of its doors locked all of the time? ”

    Our kids’ high school does, between the opening and closing bell. You have to be buzzed in at one particular entrance. When kids go out for PE and such, it’s under supervision, and there are no outdoor classrooms. The locks are one way — if student needs to leave during the day, he can walk out, but nobody can walk in through the secure doors without being buzzed in.

    You’re right that there might be situations in which the doors could not be locked, such as high schools (like my old one) where you would have to travel outside to different classes. But then the mere presence of an “unauthorized person” shouldn’t get people bent out of shape, or they should have some other way of controlling the entrances. For all those who are raising issues about how the guy looked, that he was carrying a bag (just like the students!) and so forth, you’ll notice nothing like that was mentioned in the article, nor was that indicated to be the reason that he was repeatedly referred to as a “suspect.” It was BEING THERE that was the problem. All I’m saying is that if the *mere presence* of an unauthorized person is a problem, why is the building insecure?

  37. pentamom December 8, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    Correction: there’s one area where the doors aren’t locked so the kids can eat outside in nice weather. And that area has a fence around it that is locked during school hours, unlocked at other times.

  38. Jules December 8, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    @Larry: Thanks for sharing that. It was really interesting to read, and makes one realize that the same tragedies that happen today happened over 80 years ago. They were just dealt with in a less monumental fashion.

  39. Lisa December 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Heaven help the weak-bladdered among us. I’ve used the rest room at so many — I suppose otherwise “inappropriate” — places over the years; including once – egads! – a church preschool where my own child was not a student. Maybe it’s only a threat if the bathroom-user is male?

  40. Donna December 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    I wouldn’t have problem with the school, upon finding a non-student with a duffle bag wandering the halls, stopping him, questioning him and asking him to leave. The local high school shouldn’t be used as a public restroom any more than I want my office building to be used as a public restroom. Even if the school is technically a government building (as is my office) that doesn’t mean that it needs to provide restrooms for the general public.

    The main issue with this story is that they KNOW that this man did nothing but come in, use the restroom and leave. It’s all on video. Since it’s known that nothing happened and he wasn’t there to harm the kids, damage the property or anything else that they could legitimately be worried about when an unauthorized person entered the building, why the manhunt for him? I can see stopping an unknown person from walking the halls when found. He doesn’t belong there and the school does have a responsibility to inquire into the purpose of his visit. However, tracking him down after the fact – when he didn’t do anything illegal while in the building – seems like overkill.

  41. Library Diva December 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    I work for a community newspaper, and I’m betting this was written in response to rumors that were already circulating. Someone probably called the paper and told them that the school was in lockdown because of an intruder. If they’d done nothing, they would have been deluged with phone calls and letters asking why this was being ‘hushed up.’ You can’t win.

  42. pentamom December 9, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Donna — yes. I don’t mean that if the doors aren’t locked, it’s unreasonable to have a policy that unauthorized persons shouldn’t be there. I only meant that if the doors aren’t locked, acting like it’s a crisis (or even a “might have been” crisis) when one shows up, is ridiculous. So I agree with you — I’d have no problem with his being stopped and questioned or told he didn’t belong there without checking in and having a good reason for it. It’s just that acting like it was some kind of “incident” when 1) nothing actually happened and 2) he didn’t breach any kind of security that was thought necessary is odd.

  43. Mandy December 15, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    The word “public” in public schools doesn’t mean what you think it means. I’m not bothered by the fact that random people can’t come in and go the bathroom at my kids’ schools. Or hey, why not let random people come eat lunch in the cafeteria? It’s “public” after all!

  44. Grimalkin December 16, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    I’m pregnant. That means that I use a lot of bathrooms, even when they aren’t strictly public. I’ve had emergencies (thanks to a kicking baby with _really_ good aim) when I’ve even had to knock on doors of private residences and ask if I could use their bathroom.

    I sincerely doubt that this young man was pregnant, but surely there are other reasons for needing to obey the call of nature RIGHT NOW. I can sympathize.

    Should he have asked at a front desk? If there was one, yes! But was there one? And was there someone present?

    I do believe in asking to use bathrooms first (or, if it’s a business, buying something since they have to pay to keep those bathrooms clean and it’s only fair). But the proper reaction to someone failing to observe proper etiquette is to give them stern looks and perhaps asking them to leave. The fact that a lockdown would even be considered is just silly.

  45. JP Merzetti April 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    The kids gave him a ride? I’d say those are some kiddoes.
    Old enough to drive?
    Old enough to be seniors?
    Old enough to be the slightly younger siblings of their older siblings who might have actually attended the same school (at the same age – as) the tall dark stranger?
    fears for “childrens safety.
    Somehow I cant quite completely lose that itchy urge to cattle-prod every misuse of that intantile word.

    Ah geeze. Someone somewhere makes cash outa every single lockdown. They missed a golden opportunity.
    Do I sound just a tad sarcastic?
    Imagine he sarcasm growing deep and sinister inside those kids….

    The dude needed to use the can, apparently. This is now cause for deeply myopic and hysterical paranoia?
    Last I heard, it was just nature’s call.

    When I was 20, I visited my old high school at least a half dozen times. I’m sure I must have used the washroom every single time.
    That this might have led to lockdown……I could have believed I’d walk on the moon more readily than that.

  46. JP Merzetti April 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    on second thought…..why not just have a half dozen football team linebackers take him out?
    Nice layered tackle. Nothin’ to it. Good practice.
    Yer average high school isn’t as helpless as we’d like it to be, after all.