‘It was terrible’: Threats prompt school lockdowns in Nebraska City, rattle community

Two instances of unrelated threats, including a high school girl’s threats to shoot a teacher, rattled a southeast Nebraska community Thursday and left law enforcement officials shaken.

Capt. Lonnie Neeman of the Nebraska City Police Department described a harrowing and confusing morning as authorities tried to sort out multiple threats.

As a Nebraska State Patrol airplane circled overhead, about 30 police, sheriff and state patrol officers converged on schools in Nebraska City with sirens sounding. All four schools in the community had been placed on lockdown as authorities first investigated a threat against the middle school and then focused on the high school. Eventually high school students were told to exit the building with their hands up, and authorities later said they didn’t find any of the threats credible.

As it turned out, there were two people making separate, unrelated but nearly simultaneous threats, Nebraska City Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Edwards said Thursday evening in a statement.

Edwards said a community member visiting a local business made a threat potentially involving the middle school. That prompted law enforcement to search the middle school, and per policy, the district placed all four schools on lockdown.

As this was going on, new threats were phoned in, Neeman said.

These new threats were coming from within the locked down high school, authorities realized, which sent them hurrying there, Neeman said.

“We didn’t know if anybody was armed, we did not know who the caller was,” he said. “It was terrible.”

Students were told to walk out of the high school with their hands up because authorities didn’t know if someone had a weapon.

Two people involved in the incidents were taken into custody, Edwards said.

Hours later, Neeman’s voice still had the air of someone struggling to come to terms with what did — and didn’t — happen. He said he didn’t know what motivated the student’s threat to shoot a teacher. But speaking in general terms, he said this type of confusing, rapidly changing situation could have inadvertently turned deadly.

What if a student, even an innocent one, panicked and made a gesture that was misinterpreted?

“We train for this kind of thing and you hope you don’t make mistakes,” he said as his voice trailed off. “Thank goodness nobody got hurt.”