Officer's gun goes off during response to hoax threat at middle school

Officer's gun discharges during Jacksonville police response

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A false threat made to Jefferson Davis Middle School prompted Jacksonville police to swarm the campus Thursday afternoon, according to a Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman. During the police response, an officer's gun accidentally discharged outside the school, authorities said. 

About 3:50 p.m., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, 911 dispatch received two calls reporting there had been a shooting at the school. Officers arrived in full force to investigate and then determined the information was false. The incident report shows the calls came from within the school.

Just after 4 p.m., the Sheriff's Office said, a police officer had an unintentional discharge from his agency-issued weapon and the bullet struck the sidewalk, causing minor surface damage. The Sheriff's Office is conducting an administrative investigation into the unintentional discharge.

No one was injured. Duval County Schools and Jacksonville police said the situation was under control in minutes and everyone was safe.

"While it is very upsetting that someone would make a false threat against the school and disrupt our campus -- and even more upsetting that a weapon was discharged -- we are appreciative for the calm and composure of our students and staff during a stressful situation," parents were told in a recorded message released after 6 p.m. "Please talk with your children about what happened today and discuss the serious nature of making false threats. As always, thank you for your partnership in keeping students and staff safe."

Dozens of police officers and a couple of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department units swarmed the school campus close to dismissal time. By the time News4Jax units and Sky 4 got to the scene, students were loading school buses and leaving campus.

WATCH: Parents upset they weren’t immediately notified of hoax threat at middle school

A woman told News4Jax that she saw police everywhere with guns drawn when she arrived.

"I saw all those cops, ambulances, fire trucks and officers running with rifles," Keturah Porter said. "I was only notified by seeing cops fly by past me while I’m at the gas station.”

Other parents said they were upset because they had no idea what was going on and they were not notified.

“You want to know what’s happening. No one is saying anything. You just see all this action going on," Greg Mizell said. "I just saw police everywhere."

School officials said they didn’t immediately notify parents because even they didn’t have all the facts about what happened. 

“You don’t want to put something out that’s going to cause a panic or further disruptions, so it’s important to have the facts straight," said Tracy Pierce, marketing chief of DCPS. "We try to communicate with parents as quickly as possible, but it’s also important to communicate factual information. So, before we communicate with parents, we always want to verify everything that’s going into that message. We knew it was a false threat. We knew there was no active assailant, but other details of the situation we didn’t know.”

Once school leaders had all the facts, parents were notified by the recorded message.

When Sky 4 flew over the scene, a child could be seen being put into an ambulance. According to school officials, the child was having unrelated health issues that required medical attention. 

There was enhanced security at Jacksonville's schools Thursday, as it was one year after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. A bus driver at Jefferson Davis told News4Jax that students were searched as they arrived Thursday morning.

About the Author:

Award-winning broadcast and multimedia journalist with 20 years experience.