Parents, neighbors seek more information after police presence, school lockdown

Anchorage residents have questions after school lockdown and heavy police presence.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 4:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Parents and neighbors are asking for more answers from police and the Anchorage School District after a large police presence Friday put Rabbit Creek Elementary School into lockdown for about an hour. Police also had a SWAT team presence in a nearby neighborhood.

At 2:09 p.m. Friday, Rabbit Creek Elementary parents received a text to check their email for “an important message about a large police presence in the area.” An accompanying email just a few minutes later detailed how the school had gone into lockdown for a “short period of time” at the advisement of School Resource Officers, and said that the school was no longer in lockdown.

Anchorage Police had notified the public with a Nixle alert at 1:29 p.m. — 45 minutes earlier — that there was a large police presence near Specking Avenue and DeArmoun Road, which is directly across the Seward Highway from the school. A pedestrian walkway directly connects the two areas. Police have released few details about the incident since then, so Alaska’s News Source began seeking answers. Neighbors in the area say a SWAT presence on Jarvis Avenue, adjacent to Bell’s Nursery on Specking, was ground zero for the incident.

Neighbors told Alaska’s News Source that two men dressed as utility workers stole a van from the back parking lot of Bell’s Nursery, and drove it to a home on Jarvis Avenue, where they entered the home and assaulted a man.

A manager at Bell’s Nursery, who only gave his first name, Stefan, said the theft of the van was caught on surveillance camera, and that the suspects must have hot-wired it because no keys were left inside the van.

“It looked like they knew what they were doing,” he said Friday.

Valerie Tillman, who lives on Jarvis Avenue and is a parent of two Rabbit Creek Elementary students, caught the incident on her doorbell camera. She says police talked to the resident of the nearby home, and measured something on his forehead.

Alaska’s News Source visited that home. The man who answered the door said he didn’t want to talk about the incident, and wanted to move past it.

Tillman said she’s concerned about how safe the neighborhood is after the incident, and wondered if the suspects could still be in the neighborhood after the police presence ended.

“We locked our doors and made the kids lock the doors, you know, make sure all the doors are locked,” she told Alaska’s News Source on Monday.

Back in the school on Friday, Tillman’s fifth-grade son Kelby said the lockdown went on for a while.

“In my class we all went under our desks and we had to, we stayed quiet and if I remember it was over an hour long,” he said.

Other Rabbit Creek Elementary parents say some of their students were scared, and wrote letters to their parents, or strategized how they would fight off an attacker.

“The music teacher said a couple kids that was there during the lockdown started crying and stuff,” Kelby Tillman said.

The Anchorage School District says families were first notified about the lockdown just after 2 p.m., and later updated after it cleared around 3:15 p.m. MJ Thim, a spokesperson for the district, encouraged parents with concerns about the communication of the incident to contact the district.

Anchorage police sent a follow-up Nixle alert at 3:33 p.m. Friday, confirming the scene was cleared. On Tuesday, Anchorage police reported the investigation is regarding a burglary, is still underway, and no one has been arrested.

Reporter Mike Mason, photojournalist Rachel McPherron, and photojournalist Lexi Yelverton also contributed to this report.

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