Hammond Middle School evacuated after bomb threat

Hammond Middle School evacuated after bomb threat
Francis C. Hammond Middle School (Photo Credit: ACPS)

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Francis C. Hammond Middle School students were rerouted to T.C. Williams High School on their way to school on Tuesday morning in response to a bomb threat, according to an Alexandria eNews release.

At 11:37 a.m., about three hours after the initial evacuation, Alexandria Police Department reported that it had finished checking the school and determined it was safe for students to return. Hammond students were transported back to the school after being fed lunch at T.C., according to another eNews release.

Police Chief Michael Brown said at the Tuesday night city council legislative meeting that police had received a second bomb threat via phone call while they were investigating the building.

The bomb threats follow two 911 hang-up calls from the school on Monday that alleged there were weapons inside the building, according to a letter from Principal Pierrette Peters to Hammond parents. Brown said all four calls received Monday and Tuesday came from inside the school.

Tuesday’s threat had no more substantiation than the previous calls, according to the eNews release. Because it occurred while buses were arriving at the school, however, they were rerouted so that the APD could conduct a full investigation of the property. APD clarified in a tweet that the lack of “substantiation” meant there was no chatter related to the threats, no postings, no weapon located and no student admitting to making the calls.

Following the evacuation, Alexandria City Public Schools allowed parents to pick up students from Hammond after 1:30 p.m. if they wished to collect their children prior to dismissal.

At the legislative meeting, Brown emphasized the cost of the police response.

“What I need to reinforce is when we do a fullscale response like that, we are actually putting every police officer in this city in responding to a scene,” Brown said. “That, as you can imagine, affects the regular deployment and security of the city. This is not to be taken lightly, and we don’t take it lightly.”

On Monday, APD also conducted full investigations in response to the calls that took place around 11 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. In each instance, the school was placed on lockdown with students and staff remaining in their locations. In both instances, it took less than an hour for police to deem the building safe.

In addition to the four threats this week, Hammond had a fifth threatening phone call on Dec. 21, according to Brown. In January 2018, the school also faced a threat on social media that resulted in its lockdown and evacuation.

Brown said he couldn’t disclose details of the police investigation, but at the time, he said police suspected one or more students were responsible for the calls.

“We are not taking this lightly,” Brown said. “We will respond and continue to respond to any kind of report of this kind of activity, and we are going to continue our investigation. If we identify who might be involved, we will prepare a criminal case and send it forward for consideration by the commonwealth’s attorney.”