Several Sequim schools went on lockdown and a man who is not permitted on schools grounds was arrested Thursday morning after he appeared on the Sequim High School campus reportedly looking for his son.
Jason Spaulding, 43, of Port Angeles, was arrested for criminal trespassing following the incident on May 10.
Sequim Police Department Sgt. Mike Hill reports Spaulding arrived at the high school at about 8:25 a.m., went into the school’s H building and knocked on a classroom door in an attempt to contact his son.
Sequim Police officials said a teacher recognized Spaulding and notified school administration, who in turn contacted law enforcement.
The school went on a temporary lockdown and Helen Haller Elementary School, Sequim Middle School and Olympic Peninsula Academy went into temporary modified lockdowns.
Sequim Police officers and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office deputies searched for Spaulding but did not locate him. When law enforcement determined he was not in the area, the lockdown was lifted at 8:49 a.m.
Sequim Police officials said Spaulding did not enter any classrooms and left as the high school went into lockdown.
Spaulding was arrested at 1:15 p.m. that afternoon at the Clallam County Courthouse, where he had business with a pending case for an unrelated matter, Hill said. The courthouse coordinated with Clallam County Sheriff’s Department officials who took him into custody.
Spaulding was booked into Clallam County Jail and charged with criminal trespass in the first degree, a gross misdemeanor, and he posted bail at $1,000. He paid the bail and was released and his charges for criminal trespass are being sent to the Prosecutor’s Office to proceed with the case.
Spaulding had a hearing for the criminal trespass charges on May 11 in the Clallam County Courthouse.
Previously, Spaulding was issued a trespass warning in December of 2017 after causing a disturbance at the campus, which meant he could not go on to any Sequim School District campus for four years.
Hill said Spaulding had been released from Clallam County Jail within the last week.
Sequim School District sent out emails and phone calls starting at about 9:06 a.m. notifying parents and guardians the schools were on temporary lockdown.
Hill said misinformation spread in the community that Spaulding had a gun and that SWAT responded to the school.
“There is no indication Spaulding was armed at any time, nor did a SWAT team respond,” he said.
Notification of the lockdown also was distributed separately from the district to some parents and community members through “Shepherd Shield,” the Sequim-based Security Services Northwest, Inc.’s mobile app for security threats.
Security Services Northwest, Inc. President Joe D’Amico said the app, which has about 20,000 subscribers nationwide, notified users of the lockdown at 8:36 a.m., about 10 minutes after the schools went into lockdown procedures.
Its first report said, “Sequim High School is in lock down due to a non custodial parent with a gun. The school is surrounded by SWAT and law enforcement. Parents and civilians are asked to stay OUT of the area. Students, lay low, stay quiet and follow directions given.”
D’Amico said that information came from a student.
“We take whatever information we get … and relay that back to our subscriber base,” he said. “We always try to verify. We attempted to call the district, but no one was answering the phone.”
D’Amico said “Shepherd Shield” sends out one to three alerts each day across its network.
“Our protocol is to go with the best information we have,” he said. “A lot of times that’s from people on site.”
The Sequim notification was updated as more information became available.
“What we’re trying to do is get info out to parents, and part of that is to keep parents away from school,” D’Amico said.
“Students are already telling parents and other people; they are putting that info out anyway,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a big secret. It’s, how does it get out there?”
D’Amico said there is no formal agreement between his company and the Sequim School District to use “Shepherd Shield” but noted that the alert system will get better as more students, staff and parents use it.
“The thing that should have happened is to let us know,” D’Amico said. “We try to do that by reaching out.
“The whole lesson learned is that there needs to be a lot more communication.”
In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, the Sequim Police Department extended “appreciation to the parents who had been notified by their children attending school, but refrained from entering the campus.”
“This allowed police to search for Spaulding in a more timely fashion without unnecessary interference,” the release said.
“The Police Department cautions the public to resist the temptation to believe what they are seeing on social media or subscription information sources while an incident is occurring. In many cases this information has not been vetted for accuracy and does not come from an official source.”