Lafayette police seek gun-toting man spotted at school

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Police Units are parked around the Moss Annex building in Lafayette Friday morning after reports of someone bringing a gun to the campus.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Police Units are parked around the Moss Annex building in Lafayette Friday morning after reports of someone bringing a gun to the campus.

Armed man seen on N.P. Moss grounds

Lafayette police were searching Friday for a person armed with a handgun spotted walking on the grounds of the N.P. Moss Preparatory campus.

The person with the gun was seen Friday morning, and school officials dismissed students early as a precaution in case the person planned to return to campus at dismissal, said Sandra Billeaudeau, Lafayette Parish School System assistant superintendent.

Billeaudeau said it’s an unclear whether the person was an adult or a student from another campus, and the intent of the visit was unknown. A police spokesman described him as a black male wearing khaki pants and a white, hooded sweatshirt.

“There was not an altercation on campus or anything like that,” she said. “They’re investigating, but there is nothing that is campus-related that we know of at this time.”

Prior to early dismissal, the campus was placed on temporary lockdown and returned to normal operations mid-morning Friday.

Lafayette police officers working as school resource officers are assigned to the campus and responded immediately to a Moss staff member’s report of a person with a gun on the campus, Billeaudeau said.

Billeadeau credited the campus’ principal, Jody Duhon, and school resource officers for controlling the situation.

“The school went on lockdown,” she said. “Those on buses were routed to Northside High School. The officers responded promptly.”

The intruder was in a late model, blue Chevrolet pickup truck, Lafayette police Cpl. Paul Mouton said in a news release.

Anyone with information about the incident or the identity of the person is asked to contact Lafayette police or Crime Stoppers at (337) 232-TIPS.

School resource officers have responded to at least three other reports of students with weapons, or threats of students with weapons, on campuses since last week.

Earlier Friday morning, authorities confiscated a knife with a 7-inch blade from the booksack of an Alice Boucher Elementary student, Mouton said in a news release.

A student on the campus reported that the other student had the knife in his bag and staff confiscated it, Mouton said.

The student’s parents picked him up from school following the incident, he said.

Last week, the staff at Boucher staff confiscated a knife from a student before the school day started based on a student’s report that someone planned to bring a knife to school.

On Thursday, Scott police responded to a report at Acadiana High that two students were threatening to bring a gun to school Friday. After officers’ investigation, a 14-year-old student was sent to juvenile detention and a 17-year-old was arrested.

Billeaudeau credited campuses for their efforts in keeping students safe.

“School resources officers are doing their due diligence,” Billeaudeau said. “They’re on top of things keeping our kids safe. I feel blessed none of these incidents have yielded any kind of tragic event.”

She said students and parents have also played a role in reporting suspicious activity and potential threats to campuses.

“We encourage the kids to report things if they don’t feel comfortable,” Billeaudeau said.

School security issues were brought to the forefront following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy, Lafayette school district staff began reviewing safety needs on campuses and recommended additional personnel and equipment to improve surveillance.

Some of the added security include a new position of safety officer on some high school campuses and two safety officers at N.P. Moss Preparatory. While the safety officers would help the school resource officers keep order on campuses, they are not police officers and have no arresting authority and will not carry weapons.

Interviews for the safety officer positions will begin sometime after Tuesday, which is the closing date for applications.

Applicants for the position of safety officer will be interviewed by regional chiefs of police, who provide school resource officers to schools outside the city and Lafayette police Sgt. Mark Francis, who supervises the officers in Lafayette city schools, Billeaudeau said.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” she said of the police officers’ role in selecting the new hire.