By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Police raced to a shopping plaza just outside of Lafayette Square this afternoon after receiving reports of shots fired. Several police units responded to the plaza while additional units raced to St. Joseph School of All Saints Parish, just outside of the square, and Tilton Elementary School on Grove Street. Officers remained at both schools while students boarded buses and were picked up by parents.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said police began receiving calls at 2:12 p.m. of shots fired at 13 Hilldale Ave., a shopping plaza that includes Family Dollar and Little Caesars pizza.
"There was a person seen running from the scene who had fired at least two shots," Thompson said. "He was last seen running in the vicinity of Federal Street, which is off Hilldale."
Thompson said State Police units responded with a K-9 unit and assisted in a search of the area, but as of this afternoon the shooter had not been located. He said there would be extra police patrols in the area overnight and that the investigation is ongoing.
He said shell casings were found on the scene, but that no one was reported injured.
School Superintendent James Scully said that as a precautionary measure, he sent additional staff to Tilton to assist in an orderly and "structured" dismissal. He said parents were notified to pick up their children through the School Department's AlertNow system. Students who did not have a ride and who walked home were escorted by adults.
"We also posted notices on Twitter and Facebook," Scully said.
St. Joseph principal Carol Simone notified parents that her school was placed in lockdown mode at 2:25 p.m.
"Most of the students were already dismissed at this point," she said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. "We immediately followed our School Crisis Plan and the Haverhill Police Department has been here to instruct us on the procedures they wish us to follow."
Simone said police officers waited on the property to ensure the safety of children.