by Vikki Hopes and Laura Rodgers
Three Abbotsford schools were placed under lockdown yesterday afternoon after a disturbance at a nearby home resulted in police swarming the neighbourhood to search for a group of suspects.
The incident ended about two hours later, with the four suspects – all 17-year-old boys – in custody.
Const. Ian MacDonald said the episode began at about 12:15 p.m., when police received a 911 from a young man who lives in a home in the 34000 block of Immel Street.
The caller said that a group of four young men had come to the home and tried to goad him into fighting, but he felt threatened and instead called police.
MacDonald said it was believed that one of the suspects might have had a weapon, such as a gun.
The caller told police that the group was heading in the direction of Robert Bateman secondary, located on Exbury Avenue, not far from the home. MacDonald said witnesses soon reported to police that they had seen the four youths enter the school.
That school, the adjacent Clayburn middle school and nearby Sandy Hill elementary were immediately placed on full lockdown, with nobody permitted in or out of the school except for police.
Other schools, such as Abbotsford Christian School and Thomas Swift elementary, were put on “hold in place” status, meaning the exterior doors were locked but regular operations continued inside.
At least a dozen undercover and marked police vehicles converged in the area around Robert Bateman. Anxious parents milled about on the streets as they waited for their children to be released. Many of them questioned the large police presence.
MacDonald said police exercised an “abundance of caution” to ensure the safety of students and staff.
“If a group of youth are prepared to go to a resident and cause a person to be fearful enough to call 911 … we (police) would be equally concerned about the high school and younger kids in the area,” he said.
As the investigation continued, only Robert Bateman remained on full lockdown. By 2:30 p.m., police were reporting that the suspects had been located in the school and taken into custody.
The school remained on full lockdown until 3:20 p.m. to allow police to search for a possible weapon and additional evidence.
MacDonald said police are continuing the investigation, and charges being considered at this point are related to weapons and threats in relation to the incident at the home.
For an Instagram video, click here.
(Photos below by Vikki Hopes. Exbury Avenue is lined with police vehicles outside of Robert Bateman secondary during a lockdown at the school.)