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October 25, 2013

Manhunt forced security steps at schools

Schools in Salem and Derry went on alert yesterday, tightening security within the hour police launched a manhunt for Thomas George.

George had ties to schools in both communities.

Spokesman Chip Underhill confirmed George had attended Pinkerton Academy for three years before withdrawing last year.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty said George was a participant in the Salem district’s evening program and has a brother who is a freshman at Salem High School.

Salem police issued a bulletin looking for George at about 8 a.m.

Salem schools initiated their “shelter in place” protocol shortly after police notified them about 8:30 a.m. they were concerned George might go to the high school.

But with the manhunt on in Salem, Delahanty said, officials decided to expand the security precautions to all eight schools.

“Shelter in place” is a step down from Salem’s most serious security alert, a lockdown.

School activities continue indoors, but not outside. Only parents are allowed to enter the building.

“This limits access for visitors,” Delahanty said.

Students in portable classrooms were kept inside and not allowed to travel between them and the main building.

There was still a heavy police presence at Salem High, with as many as a half dozen officers observed at the school.

Meanwhile, with the manhunt unfolding in both Salem and Derry, police in Derry notified schools about the situation.

“At no time did we have information he was headed for a school,” Derry police Chief Ed Garone said.

Police were just playing it safe.

“It’s best to err on the side of caution,” Garone said.

Pinkerton Academy announced a lockdown at 8:55 a.m., Underhill said.

That meant students stayed behind locked doors in buildings and classrooms, with shades drawn. No one traveled between buildings.

It was lifted within 20 minutes, as police concluded the area was safe, Underhill said.

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