Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Frightening report of gunfire at Clearwater elementary school was a hoax

Clearwater police officers pack up after searching Belleair Elementary during an hourlong lockdown that caused confusion among students and agony for parents. Police found no evidence of a shooter or gunfire.


Clearwater police officers pack up after searching Belleair Elementary during an hourlong lockdown that caused confusion among students and agony for parents. Police found no evidence of a shooter or gunfire.

CLEARWATER — An apparent prank call about gunfire at Belleair Elementary School put students through an hour of confusion and parents through an hour of agony Tuesday afternoon as the school was locked down and rapidly surrounded by dozens of police cruisers and officers armed with assault rifles.

A 911 call reporting gunshots was made from an unidentified cellphone at 2:53 p.m., as school was letting out for the day, Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said. The school went into lockdown six minutes later, according to Pinellas schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra.

Children who were already outside the 690-student school at the corner of Missouri Avenue and Lakeview Road in Clearwater were herded off-campus by police, while the rest were ordered into locked classrooms or kept on the school buses they had already boarded. After officers searched the school and found no evidence of gunshots or a shooter, the remaining pupils inside were released about 4:15 p.m.

In the meantime, hundreds of parents, some weeping with fear or shouting with anger, gathered at the fringes of the school property. Some said they were upset by what they described as a lack of adequate communication about the incident from school officials, claiming that no formal notification call had been put out informing them of a potentially dangerous incident.

"I called about six times," said Diane Ellison, 43, waiting across Lakeview Road to pick up her 10-year-old grandson, who was still inside. She said she had only gotten an answering machine at the school's office. "The system that they got, it isn't working."

Sherrie Wilson said she planned to withdraw two children she has enrolled at Belleair Elementary after the confusion and fear surrounding the Tuesday lockdown. She said she had received no notification Tuesday afternoon.

"There's only three months left this school year and I hate to transfer them but ... I'm done. It's too much," the 26-year-old Largo woman said. "I want to know any little thing that happens. This is elementary school, not high school where (the students) have cellphones and can call."

However, Parra said a call went out to parents about 3:30 p.m., alerting them to the lockdown and police presence. There was a half-hour delay because "the priority was the safety and security of the students and following direction of law enforcement," Parra said. She said she could not speculate as to why some parents said they did not receive the message.

Tuesday's false alarm was the second time Belleair Elementary has gone into lockdown in as many months. On Jan. 7, police received a report of an armed man chasing someone near the school. That lockdown lasted less than 40 minutes. No students were harmed.

Watts said police continue to investigate who might have made the hoax call that began the lockdown Tuesday.

Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Frightening report of gunfire at Clearwater elementary school was a hoax 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Supreme Court term ended much different than it began


    BC-US—Supreme Court, 1st Ld-Writethru,899

    AP Photo WX109

    People visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017, as justices issued their final rulings for the term, in Washington.  The Supreme Court began its term nine months ago with Merrick Garland nominated to the bench, Hillary Clinton favored to be the next president, and the court poised to be controlled by Democratic appointees for the first time in 50 years.  Things looked very different when the justices wrapped up their work this week. [Associated Press]
  2. SPC's Bill Law leaves with pride for the faculty, concern for students — and a story about hotdogs


    ST. PETERSBURG — The local community college had already made a name for itself when William Law Jr. first arrived on campus in the early 1980s as a vice president. Still, the school, then named St. Petersburg Junior College, was just a shadow of the sprawling state college it would later become.

    Bill Law, outgoing St. Petersburg College president, said he is proud of the college cultivating stronger relationships with the community.
  3. Forecast: Pattern of hot, humid air and inland, late-day showers continues across bay area


    Storms again will pop up midday around Tampa Bay, but are forecast to mostly stick inland.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day. [WTSP]
  4. UCF suspends fraternity amid sex assault and hazing claims (w/video)


    ORLANDO — A University of Central Florida fraternity has been suspended while the school investigates allegations of sexual assault and hazing.

  5. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title


    OMAHA, Neb. — Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their SEC rival 6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.