Parents arriving to pick up their children from Merrill Middle School Tuesday afternoon were met instead by more than a dozen Des Moines police officers with their shotguns and pistols drawn.
The response came after Ryan Collier allegedly made threats to use a gun during an argument inside the school.
Parents waited anxiously for news from inside the locked down school.
Some parents heard about the incident while they were at work and raced to the school.
Others were already at the school when a cavalcade of officers stopped the school busses and locked the doors.
As Susan Minnik-Smith paced outside, her son remained locked inside a classroom. The only way to comfort him was with a phone call.
“He`s very scared and he was actually crying,” Minnik-Smith said. “It`s just surreal. It`s like something you see on TV that happens in other places.”
About an hour - perhaps the longest hour of their lives passed - before Susan and other parents would be reunited with their children.
As students spilled out of the school, so did their stories.
“The police officers told us to run inside,” Clare Chow said.
Merrill principal, Alex Hanna, says he and the vice-principal made the decision to place the school on lockdown based on the severity of the threats
He says the district plans for incidents like this and when they happen.
Hanna`s kids and staff will have the opportunity to talk to counselors Wednesday. But for now, Hanna says, “At the end of the day we`re just grateful that all of our kids are going home and we hope to see all of kids tomorrow.”