Lee Elementary hostage situation declared hoax

Julianna Poe, Sports Editor

Exactly two weeks after the Halloween shooting threat at Manhattan High East Campus, Lee Elementary went under heightened security following a concerning call from a man who feigned a kidnapping and detaining of a captive inside the school building.

According to a press release from the Riley County Police Department later that day, on Wednesday morning at about 1 a.m., the RCPD was contacted through their non-emergency line by a man who claimed to be inside Lee Elementary holding a hostage at gunpoint. Troops arrived at the scene within the hour and proceeded to set up a perimeter on Lee Street.

“Safety and security [are] of utmost importance to USD 383 and all of our wonderful partners, such as Riley County Police Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, Manhattan Fire Department and Riley County Emergency Medical Services,” USD 383 superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade said via email. “USD 383 is greatly appreciative of our relationship with these partners, as we work well together to prepare for a wide variety of situations and are always ready for whatever might occur.”

Throughout the early morning hours, the RCPD and a local news station continued contact with the suspect, who according to the press release, admitted to a multitude of misdemeanor crimes.

“It’s hard in the middle of the night because of course people are asleep,”  Director of Communications and School Safety Michele Jones said. “When they wake up and they start hearing and … trying to comprehend what’s going on, [they have] lots of questions. We had a significant number of kids stay home from Lee that day [because of the situation].”

At approximately 6:50 a.m., the RCPD entered the building in search of the man in question. By 8 a.m. the scene was declared safe and the school announced they would still be in session despite the recent events.

As of right now, the RCPD believes the person behind the claims was not a local to Manhattan and “was fabricating the story to gain notoriety by receiving air time on news stations.” 

Currently, the investigation remains ongoing.

“I want to thank Riley County Police Department, troopers with the Kansas Highway Patrol and our USD 383 response team for their efforts [on] Wednesday morning,” Wade said via email. “I also want to reassure students, parents, staff, and community members that we want them to have the facts they need to make informed decisions, so the release of timely and accurate information is a key component of our crisis response process.”