There was a report of an active shooter situation at Topsail High School this morning after noises were heard coming from the top of the building.
A malfunctioning water heater at Topsail High School sounded like gunfire this morning – prompting a multi-agency response.
Law enforcement officials identified it as an active shooter situation before 7 AM – re-routing school buses and locking down all the schools in the eastern portion of Pender County.
At a press conference Friday, Sheriff Carson Smith said he was gratified by the rapid response from local, state, and federal authorities.
"What I heard when I got here sounded like gunfire. I don't want anybody to think that the students or the first officers that arrived on scene maybe overreacted. What we found is that gas combustion -- it sounded just like gunfire. Everybody that treated it as gunfire and reacted that way did exactly what they should have."
[Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith audio courtesy of WECT.]
SWAT teams cleared the building before lifting the lockdown. Sheriff Smith says they wanted to get school back in operation as quickly as possible due to all the missed days from severe weather.
Miranda Ferguson, Spokesperson for Pender County Schools, said in an email, "Law enforcement responded immediately and it has been determined there is no shooter and no weapon."
Pender County Schools will open Topsail Elementary and Topsail Middle for staff at 9:30 a.m. Officials say they will inform Topsail High staff about opening shortly. Bus routes for Topsail Elementary, Topsail Middle, Topsail High, & South Topsail will be running on approx. 3 hour delay. Lunch will be served.
Emergency Management officials in Pender County say it's likely malfunctioning equipment that sounds like gunfire is cause of situation.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are responding to reports of an active shooter at Topsail High School in Pender County.
FROM PENDER COUNTY SCHOOLS: At this time Topsail Elementary, Topsail Middle, and Topsail High remain on lockdown. The lockdown has been lifted on all other school campuses.
Officials are searching the building now. Multiple officials say it's likely a malfunctioning water heater.
Tom Collins, Director of Emergency Management for Pender County, told WECT it may be a malfunctioning water heater. This is not yet confirmed as of 8:25 AM. The situation is still active.
WECT reports email from Pender County Commissioner George Brown says a piece of equipment has been malfunctioning over the last several days, and it sounds like gunfire. Brown is not saying this is the cause of the active shooter situation.
There are no reports of any injuries as of 7:43 AM.
WECT reports that unidentified people are on the roof of the school, all the schools on this campus are on lockdown, as are all schools in the eastern portion of Pender County.
School buses with children are secured at the Lowes Foods parking lot where parents can pick them up. School officials are asking parents not to take their children to school if they have not left yet.
FROM PENDER COUNTY SCHOOLS: Buses for South Topsail, North Topsail & Surf City Schools are being routed to their respective school campuses, where students will remain on lockdown on the bus. Parents planning to drive child to school this morning should not do so at this time, as all schools are on lockdown