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Crisis defused; locker just keeps clicking

Click. Click. Click.

A counselor heard that sound about 1 p.m. Monday while walking past a row of lockers at Hernando High School. The noise came from locker No.

274.

School officials worried that it might be a time bomb. The girl who had been assigned the locker told school officials she didn't recall leaving anything inside that would make the noise.

Minutes later, 1,200 students, faculty and staff members were evacuated from the school. Brooksville police and fire departments were alerted.

Assistant principal Richard Wilson and school resource officer Tom Harris, a Hernando County sheriff's deputy, stood on either side of the steel locker and opened it.

Inside, they found a Sony Walkman tape player, empty, set to play. The capstans turned harmlessly: Click. Click. Click.

"Thank goodness it wasn't anything bad," Wilson said Tuesday. "We were real tickled after, but we're always going to err on the side of safety. I felt real confident it wasn't anything explosive. The worst problems we have at Hernando are tardies. Our kids are too good.

"Another town, another school, I wouldn't have done it."

His confidence, which he attributes to 21 years of experience in the school system, came from his deduction that the object in locker No.

274 was more likely a toy than a bomb.

The noise was too loud for most timers, Wilson said. Common electronic timers make no sound at all, he said, and would have been triggered by Harris' two-way radio.

Wilson's action bypassed the usual process, said Capt. Ray Schumacher of the Brooksville Police Department. When a suspicious object has been isolated, the school should be evacuated, and bomb experts should handle the rest.

"Obviously, we're not going to open it in this day and age. God knows who's sick enough to put one of these things together," Schumacher said. "But (Wilson and Harris) made a decision they have to live by."

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