A manhunt involving multiple police departments ended at Greens Farms Academy in Westport Friday afternoon.
At about 11 a.m., officers were in pursuit of a stolen Jeep travelling in excess of 100 miles per hour on I-95, according to police dispatch. The Jeep exited the highway at exit 19 and eventually was abandoned at Greens Farms Academy (GFA), which subsequently went under a school lockdown.
The lockdown ended at about 2:30 p.m. after the suspect reportedly stole a vehicle from a nearby residence.
“The police were fairly confident that the suspect had left the area,” said Allison Freeland, Director of Communications at Greens Farm Academy.
The remaining students were dismissed from school normally, she said.
"We have practiced lockdown drills, and have a lot of security measures in place, so it was a real test of what we have practiced. We are very thankful that it worked and that the Westport police were here so quickly and so thoroughly,” Freeland said.
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Something that is discussed often at GFA is “deterrents,” she said. The school wants to ensure that their security measures can buy enough time until police arrive on scene, she said.
“Our philosophy has been that the school should be secure enough so that we can stay safe for as many minutes as it takes for the pros to get here,” she said. “That seemed to work today and we are very grateful for their presence.”
Police searched the school extremely carefully with the thought that the suspect might have entered into one of the school’s buildings, she said. When asked if there was a sense of fear present among students and faculty, Freeland said that there was a sense of, “This is the real thing.”
“We never thought that after practicing, that we would have to do it for real,” she said. “The kids were commenting on that. ‘Wow! This is real.’”
Freeland said students and faculty remained calm while police conducted their search. Everyone knew where to go and what to do, she said.
Freeland said she witnessed several officers searching the school buildings and campus.
“I probably saw 10 or 12 different policemen, and I know there were more than that,” she said.
Freeland said the Westport Police Department gave the school the “all clear” at about 2:30 p.m.
“They believe this guy is nowhere near here right now,” she said shortly after the announcement was made.
A 1996 Honda Civic was stolen from 35 Beachside Avenue, a nearby home, around 2 p.m. Police called off the search shortly after discovering another car was stolen.
All GFA after school activites went on as scheduled. The GFA vs. Hopkins boys FAA semi-final game is still on for tonight at 6 p.m.