Man taken into custody after 2-hour standoff in Pleasant Gap

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 20, 2013 

— A man was taken into police custody Monday after barricading himself in his family’s South Main Street home for about two hours, prompting a large-scale police response and the lockdown of a nearby elementary school.

Pleasant Gap Elementary School and the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology were locked down Monday afternoon, and traffic was halted along busy South Main Street as police negotiated the man’s surrender.

Spring Township police Sgt. Michael Danneker said a family member called 911 after an apparent incident inside the home. Danneker said there was mention of a weapon, prompting the intense police and school response.

Police were deployed to the home, and a mobile command center and the region’s armored police truck were set up. The man, who has not been identified, surrendered peacefully at about 2:30 p.m. after communicating with police negotiators.

Danneker would not confirm Monday at the scene whether police found a weapon in the home. He said there are no charges pending and that the incident was being handled as a family crisis.

The man did not threaten police and eventually cooperated with negotiators.

Concerned parents, meanwhile, had gathered at the intersection of South Main Street and East College Avenue after receiving notifications from Bellefonte Area School District Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger that the elementary school was on lockdown as a precautionary measure.

The busy intersection was as close to the school as police were allowing people during the incident, which was ending around the time students would normally be dismissed.

Inside the school, fourth-grade student Sadie Belsky was returning from lunch when her class was instructed to head to its “safe spot.”

“I was kinda scared,” Sadie said. “They said we were under lockdown.”

Students later finished their day normally but were not allowed to leave the building, she said.

Sadie’s mother, Tammy Belsky, who walked to the school to find her daughter, said she was relieved her daughter was safe and was satisfied with the school district’s response to the situation.

“I feel the schools are really trying to keep our children safe in this day and age,” Belsky said. “They are doing all they can.”

Potteiger said the school district received a call from police at about 12:10 p.m. asking them to initiate lockdown procedures.

It’s the district’s policy not to talk specifically about its emergency plan, but Potteiger said the procedures were implemented without a hitch at the elementary school, which has about 260 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“My staff did an excellent job,” she said. “We practice these procedures. Everything went along smoothly.”

Danneker said police received the emergency call from the home at about 11:55 a.m. Officers were on the scene within minutes, and were able to set up a perimeter around the home as more units arrived.

Neighbor Carol Hartman expressed concern over the standoff and another incident that happened in October when an armed Pleasant Gap man barricaded himself in his apartment and fired a handgun.

“This is the second time something like this happened,” Hartman said. “It’s getting kinda scary here. And this used to be a nice quiet town.”

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