UPDATE: Whitwell Middle School mother prompts lockdown when firecrackers mistaken for gunfire
Whitwell Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Marion County were put on a temporary lockdown Wednesday morning.
UPDATE: Classes resumed in Marion County Wednesday morning after a lockdown at all three Whitwell schools. Police responded to a call of shots fired near Whitwell Middle School. When they arrived, they discovered a student's mother was lighting fireworks in the parking lot.
The lockdown only lasted 10 to 15 minutes. It was a scary situation for parents and students during the morning drop off period.
Students thought they heard shots going off as they entered the building. Administrators feared an active shooter was on campus. “Parents and buses dropping off that were not aware of what was going on. It made it even more serious to look at and lockdown,” said Director of Schools Mark Griffith.
Students were allowed inside the schools, but were not allowed to leave until the situation was under control. Sheriff's deputies immediately rushed in, not knowing what to expect. “Officers were going to the scene thinking possibly someone with a gun firing shots,” said Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett.
After a brief investigation, officers charged Patricia Merritt with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. They said she threw five M-80 firecrackers out of her car window directly at a middle school boy.
“When you have an adult regarding a 7th - 8th grade young man, yes, it is extremely disturbing,” said Griffith.
It is unclear why Merritt targeted the middle school boy. School officials said it may have been connected to an alleged dispute between the boy and her daughter.
The sheriff said it’s disturbing. “Makes me wonder about people's judgment. Get mad and don't think what your actions causes,” said the Sheriff.
School administrators called an assembly to clear up any rumors, and calm the fears of hundreds of students.
“You hear those things, and it sounds like gun shots. Not knowing was very fearful for students and the administrators,” said Griffith.
The two students at the center of this lockdown attended class Tuesday. They will not be facing any disciplinary actions.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested a Marion County mother Wednesday after she ignited five M-80 firecrackers at Whitwell Middle School.
The resulting sound prompted school officials to put all three Whitwell School on a temporary lockdown when it was mistaken for gunfire.
Mark Griffith, the Director of Marion County Schools tells Channel 3 that Patricia Dawn Merritt ignited the firecrackers and threw them at a male student at the school during morning drop off.
Merritt has been charged with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. She was also ordered to stay off all Marion County School property as a result.
ORIGINAL STORY: Whitwell Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Marion County were put on lockdown Wednesday morning.
The Whitwell Police Chief says the schools were on lockdown for about 10-15 minutes.
A call came in to dispatch of shots fired near Whitwell Middle School. It turned out to be a firecracker being ignited in the parking lot.
The woman who lit the firecracker has been taken into custody.
Officers continue to question people about this incident.
All three schools were locked down because they share the same campus.
We'll continue to update this story as detail become available.