Missoula Police and School Officials Provide Hellgate Debriefing
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - After the incident that occurred on April 5, when Hellgate High School was locked down and eventually evacuated due to the threat of a possible active shooter, City of Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess called for a special debriefing for Missoula media on Tuesday with Missoula Police Department Chief Mike Colyer and MCPS Superintendent Russ Lodge.
Mayor Hess first introduced interim Police Chief Mike Colyer who described what happened in the first moments after the alert was called.
Interim Chief Colyer Described the Police Response at Hellgate High School
“At that point, we have a sergeant and an officer on the scene,” began Chief Colyer. “We empower them that when you need to make a call on something, you have the full resources of the MPD (Missoula Police Department). To make that call, that supervisor is the person in the arena. We should trust our good judgment that when they say they need something they should get that really without question, and they made that call. They said this is a credible thing. The timeframe is tight. We need to take action by locking this down and collaborating with the school and get some resources here to get our arms around that, and that's what happened.”
Chief Colyer said it was fortunate that a Special Teams leader was one of the first on the scene at Hellgate.
“The fortunate thing that day was that our special teams Lieutenant was working,” he said. “Lieutenant Kemmerer handles the SWAT negotiations, the EOD (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) teams, that type of stuff, and he's excellent in critical incidents. So he gets folded into that. And all of the wheels are in motion which results in a massive police presence immediately there because like I said, the timeframe indicated that this had just been posted. The geotag indicated that the person was at or near the school. There were two pictures with two firearms and the words verbalizing ‘school shooter’.
Colyer said all Involved in the Investigation worked Together as a Team
Chief Colyer said while all the other pieces of the law enforcement response were in play, he was able to begin the investigation into the incident.
"While all those pieces are being brought into play, there's another action going on in the background, and that's the investigative piece; figuring out who it is," he said. "So that's generally coordinated through the Detective Division. We have people who are working in digital forensics, our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force officer, and other investigators who can work on things like personnel sources; trying to find witnesses, family, and friends who can give us intel. So working with technology, working social media, and interviewing people, they are trying to determine who this person is and where this person might be. It's kind of all going on at the same time."
MCPS Superintendent Russ Lodge said that communication between the agencies was paramount in keeping the students and their parents fully informed during the incident.
MCPS Superintendent Lodge Praised the Communication between the Agencies
“What I find is that it's the communication that is what's really critical,” said Lodge. “If we can just inform people of what's going on, then they'll relax just a little bit less or more. Either way you look at that. It’s just what we need to do, so that's why you see us reaching out every 15 minutes. Then, when law enforcement arrives, law enforcement is in charge, we're not there making decisions and we really tell people that's the way it rolls. So whatever they say to do, we do.”
Police were eventually able to identify the suspect and two other minor girls who were involved in the incident.