Schools enter secure campus following juvenile inmate escape

Kris Long, Staff Writer

Both Manhattan High campuses, as well as elementary schools close to the downtown area, were advised by the Riley County Police Department to go into secure campus midday today. The decision was made after a juvenile inmate escaped from transport to the Riley County Courthouse.

According to West Campus School Resource Officer Tyrone Townsend, 16-year-old John Wallace — who is not a MHS student —  escaped while in private transport from the Central Kansas Regional Juvenile Facility.

“The people that transported [Wallace] were Security Transport,” Townsend said. “They’re a contract company, and they didn’t have him in shackles … he just basically opened the door of the van on a stoplight on the way back to the jail and … jumped out and ran.”

RCPD took Wallace back into custody Tuesday afternoon when they found him hiding at a friend’s house.

The charges for which he was being held are still unclear; however, it was determined quickly after the secure campus was put in place he was not a threat to the community. It was after this was determined that students were released to eat lunch toward the beginning of fifth hour.

Though the situation proved not to be a danger to students, according to Townsend, the secure campus was the right decision.

“[There was no threat to students in the area but] we didn’t know that at the time,” Townsend said. “We did a secure campus … because it made sense [with] the information we had at the time. [Wallace] was a threat because we didn’t know his charges …  [and] we didn’t know his intentions, so at the time it was a great call.”

Students at West Campus were given the information regarding the situation when the secure campus was put in place. However, East Campus students were only told that the school was going into a secure campus and that there would be adults supervising them if they needed to exit the building to go to their next class. This was despite the fact that Wallace was significantly closer to East Campus than to West  as he escaped on Fort Riley Boulevard. Townsend attributes this to “a misstep in communication.” Another possible explanation is that students at East Campus are less likely to be traveling and so the information was deemed not as important to their safety.

“A lot of the time the incident is over before we can fully communicate what is going on,”  Michele Jones, director of communications and school safety for USD 383, said. “Sometimes we only know that RCPD has asked a school or schools to go into secure campus and we don’t why. We have a very good working relationship with RCPD and trust that when they ask us to do something, they are asking us for a very good reason.

According to Townsend, in most secure campus scenarios, all students would be given relevant information.