Tifton Gazette


April 8, 2014

Possible Facebook dispute leads to Irwin County schools lockdown

TIFTON — What appeared to be a Facebook confrontation led to both Irwin County High School and Irwin County Elementary School being locked down for most of Tuesday.

Irwin school officials learned Monday night of a possible verbal confrontation on Facebook between a former student and a current student at the high school. After learning of that, school officials asked for a number of law enforcement officials to be present Tuesday morning.

“We had representatives from all of our surrounding area present,” said Ocilla Police Chief Billy Hancock. “We had representatives from the Fitzgerald Police Department, Ben Hill County Sheriff’s Office, some officers from Turner County, some Georgia State Patrol officers and some representatives of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation here. We want to thank them for their assistance.”

Law enforcement was present early as teachers said they met the officers as they arrived at school between 7 and 8 a.m.

Nothing occurred until around lunchtime when the suspect parked behind the high school lunchroom and entered the school through the back way. A teacher saw the 17-year-old suspect, whose name had not been released at presstime, and asked what he was doing at the school.

The teacher was aware the suspect was not a student at Irwin County High.

Law enforcement got involved at that moment and the suspect was arrested. A search of his truck found, “a pistol and a long gun (a rifle or shot gun),” said Hancock.

“With the help of the officers present we searched the school rooms and lockers,” said the Ocilla police chief.

Hancock also stressed the suspect was unarmed during his time in the school.

At that time, the elementary school, which is only separated from the high school by the Irwin football stadium, as well as the high school was basically also placed on lockdown.

“We had heard reports of other students that may have weapons, but we found nothing in our searches,” said Hancock.

Several reports indicate the confrontation was racial in nature, but no official word has been given on the validity of those accusations.

As students go back to school at Irwin County today, Hancock felt as everything should be back to normal.

“But, we will have an extra police presence,” the chief said.


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