By Robin Fornoff
CMI PROJECTS EDITOR
Two Clovis schools were placed on a temporary lockdown around noon Thursday after a man police say was carrying a stolen AR-15 rifle was spotted running from the grounds of Yucca Middle School.
Police spokesman Capt. Patrick Whitney said the man was arrested without incident when officers found him hiding in some bushes behind a former radio station at 10th and Sycamore streets.
Whitney said the AR-15 and a 9 mm handgun, both loaded, were discovered outside an apartment complex across from Hillcrest Park Zoo, where it’s believed Chavez dumped them and a backpack before he was captured.
The man arrested was identified at Andrew J. Chavez Jr., 23, of Clovis. Whitney said Chavez has outstanding arrest warrants for allegedly assaulting a police officer and for absconding from the state probation and parole department.
Whitney said Chavez stole the guns and backpack from a home on Kingston Avenue, across the street from Yucca Middle School.
Police received a report of a man in blue shorts and a striped shirt running south from the Yucca grounds with a rifle and a backpack, according to Whitney. Officers spotted Chavez near the apartments and he took off running, Whitney said.
Clovis Schools Superintendent Terry Myers confirmed Yucca and Parkview Elementary were placed on lockdown for about 20 to 30 minutes at the request of police who had swarmed the area.
Myers and Whitney said police were present at both schools for the duration of the manhunt and lockdown.
Parents picking up students from Yucca some three hours after the incident said they were not yet informed of the lockdown and students said they were told it was a drill.
Myers acknowledged the school hadn’t yet directly informed parents of the incident.
“We would not have notified parents until this situation was over anyway,” Myers said. “We have to be careful not to create mass panic. Our school buildings are the safest place in town for our children in a situation like this.”
Myers said school leaders may have told students the lockdown was a drill but it makes no difference because, “Whether real or a scenario we would approach it exactly the same way.”
Myers said staff and students at all schools participate periodically in drill scenarios much like what happened Thursday and know how to respond. He also said schools also have an emergency system for contacting parents.
“Had it been a situation of an extended lockdown where we were keeping (students) past school (hours) … well you’re doggone right we would have informed them (parents) with the emergency notification system.”
Victoria Moya of Clovis, a parent whose son attends Yucca, said she was glad the students were told it was all a drill to avoid creating panic among students.
“I’m very relieved and happy they knew what to do and handled it the right way,” Moya said.
Whitney said Chavez was taken to the Curry County jail for booking but didn’t specify charges.