Kingsport officials address social media rumors following lockdown at Dobyns-Bennett


KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)-Kingsport officials want to separate fact from fiction following a lockdown at Dobyns-Bennett High School on Wednesday.

Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer Tom Patton said officers are still investigating two threats made at the school this week.

“We had kind of a perfect storm of events that caused things to evolve the way they did,” he told News Channel 11 Thursday.

He said tensions have been high since Tuesday when a threatening note was found at the high school.

Patton said there was already an increased police presence on campus Wednesday because of that investigation when dispatch received a phone call saying two armed subjects were walking in a nearby neighborhood.

Patton said, as part of their initial investigation, police spoke with the caller and the people living at the residence the activity was said to have originated at.

“Based on our initial investigation, we have no reason to believe there was anybody walking in close proximity to the school with a gun,” Patton said.

Patton said, shortly after the call came in, administrators decided to put the high school on lockdown.

A video sent to News Channel 11 that circulated on social media shows students sprinting through the hallways in the moments that followed.

“A lot of students panicked as a result of that. Some of them were responding to training they had received if there had been an actual active shooter. Again, that was never the case, that was never announced but assumptions were made,” Patton said. “When officers outside the building saw those kids fleeing the school they naturally thought something might be going on inside the school so they went in to investigate, ultimately determining that nothing had happened.”

Several photos also began surfacing on social media leading some parents to believe there was, in fact, an active shooter in the building. News Channel 11 asked Patton about the example below. He said this photo and others circulating online were not taken at Dobyns-Bennett on Wednesday.

“I do know that for a fact,” he said.

Kingsport official say the photo above was not taken in Dobyns-Bennett on Wednesday.

Patton and Assistant Superintendent Andy True didn’t know exactly when and where the images were taken.

Some on social media said students heard gunshots. Patton said no shots were fired by law enforcement or anyone else that afternoon.

He also said no arrests have been made in connection with these incidents.

Still, some have insisted that the City of Kingsport is hiding what really happened.

“What folks may choose on social media to post, obviously those are things outside of our control,” True said. “What we want to do is make sure that we’re communicating to our community what is factual and that’s what we did yesterday.”

This information was provided to News Channel 11 by Assistant Superintendent Andy True and Kingsport Police PIO Tom Patton.

The timeline above shows police were called at 12:05 PM. True said the school was put on lockdown by 12:15 PM. He said parents were first contacted by phone and email at 12:53 PM.

“Obviously when we go on lockdown our first priority is ensuring student safety. Once those processes are in place, at that point, we begin the process of notifying parents,” True said when asked if the communication was quick enough.

He said administrators are continuing to review their safety protocols following this incident. He said they’re specifically looking at methods of communication to determine if the notification process could be expedited in the future.

Patton said there will be an increased police presence on campus in the coming days.

True said about a third of Dobyns-Bennett students were absent on Wednesday. He said those absences will be excused.

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