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    Active shooter neutralized outside Wisconsin middle school
    • May 1, 2024

    By Todd Richmond | Associated Press

    MOUNT HOREB, Wis. — Witnesses described children fleeing amid the sound of gunshots near a Wisconsin middle school where authorities said an active shooter was “neutralized” outside the building Wednesday. There were no reported injuries to those inside the school.

    For panicked kids and their parents, the incident was terrifying. Parents described children hiding in closets, afraid to communicate on their cell phones, and one middle schooler said his class initially fled the school gym on in-line skates.

    Authorities in Mount Horeb said without giving details that the “alleged assailant” was harmed, and witnesses described hearing gunshots and seeing dozens of children running.

    Police patrolled with rifles outside Mount Horeb Middle School later Wednesday afternoon. Photos by the Wisconsin State Journal showed more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles including SWAT-style trucks nearby with emergency lights flashing. First responders surrounding a gurney on the sidewalk also were visible.

    The district said in several Facebook posts starting around 11:30 a.m. that all district schools were on lockdown.

    “An initial search of the middle school has not yielded additional suspects,” a post around noon said. “As importantly, we have no reports of individuals being harmed, with the exception of the alleged assailant.”

    Earlier, the district posted that “the threat has been neutralized outside of the building” but didn’t give further details of what had happened at the school in Mount Horeb, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the state capital of Madison.

    Jeanne Keller said she heard about five gunshots while in her shop The Quilting Jeanne, just down the block from the campus that includes the middle school.

    “It was maybe like pow-pow-pow-pow,” Keller told The Associated Press by phone. “I thought it was fireworks. I went outside and saw all the children running … I probably saw 200 children.”One middle schooler said his class was in the school gym practicing in-line skating when they heard gunshots.

    Max Kelly, 12, said his teacher told the class to get out of the school. He said they skated to a street, ditched their in-line skates and ran to a nearby convenience store and gas station and hid in a bathroom.

    Kelly was reunited with his parents and sat on a hillside with them early Wednesday afternoon waiting for his younger siblings to be released from their own schools. He still wore socks, his shoes left behind.

    “I don’t think anywhere is safe anymore,” said his mother, 32-year-old Alison Kelly.

    Police in Mount Horeb said they could not immediately provide information. A person who answered the phone at the school district office declined comment. The Dane County Sheriff’s office directed media to a staging area but had not provided updates three hours after the school district first alerted families about the incident.

    The district had begun releasing some students of other schools by early afternoon and anxious parents gathered at a bus depot waiting to be reunited with their kids.

    Shannon Hurd, 44, and her former husband, Nathian Hurd, 39, sat in a car waiting for their 13-year-old son, Noah, who was still in the locked-down middle school.

    Shannon Hurd said she was alerted to the incident by a text from Noah saying he loved her. She said she nearly fell down the stairs at her work as she ran to get to the school.

    “I just want my kid,” she said. “They’re supposed to be safe at school, in Mount Horeb of all places.”

    Stacy Smith, 42, was at the bank Wednesday when she saw police cars rush by and soon got a text from the school district warning of an active shooter.

    She initially could not reach her two children — junior Abbi and seventh-grader Cole.

    She finally reached Abbi by phone but the girl whispered that she was hiding in a closet and couldn’t talk. She eventually connected with both children and learned they were OK.

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    “Not here,” she said in disbelief. “You hear about this everywhere else but not here.”

    Schools across the country have searched for ways to prevent mass shootings inside their walls, from physical security measures to drills on a response to an active shooter to technology including detailed digital maps. Many also rely on teachers and administrators working to detect early signs of mental health struggles.

    The Mount Horeb Area School District’s security protocols were not immediately clear Wednesday and there was no information known about the alleged assailant’s identity or condition.

    Heidy Lange, owner of Firefly Events Decor & Flowers, said she was in her florist shop about two blocks from the school when she looked out and saw children running and “probably 50 cop cars from everywhere.”

    “All of a sudden there was a whole bunch of parents running behind them,” Lange said. “All our phones were beeping with all the alerts. It would devastate the town if something happened to a child here.”

    Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit and Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

    ​ Orange County Register