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An 11-year-old Consolidated Elementary student who went missing early Tuesday afternoon was later taken into custody after shots were heard outside and the student was found with a firearm near the school in West Terre Haute.

No one was injured, and the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Vigo County School Corp. school protection staff and the district’s safety and security coordinator responded, as did other law enforcement.

The school was put on lockdown, although the incident was resolved by the end of the school day.

Derek Fell, Vigo County sheriff’s office chief of operations, said the incident began about 12:45 p.m., when an 11-year-old male student left the school and went missing.

School protection staff and the schools’ security chief responded, searching for the child initially inside the building and then outside.

They then heard gunshots in an area near the school that includes both woods and an open field, Fell said.

As officers searched, they spotted the student and were eventually able to detain him and take him into custody. The child did have a firearm, a long gun.

Those responding didn’t see the child fire the weapon, although they did hear gunshots from the vicinity where the child was located.

“At this time, we don’t believe he had a weapon in school,” Fell said. “The investigation at this point indicates he went to a nearby residence and retrieved a firearm. That residence is not his home.”

The youth was taken to the Vigo County Juvenile Center.

Investigators do not yet know the reasons for the child’s behavior, Fell said. “There will be a thorough investigation.”

At this point, investigators don’t know whether the child was firing into a field or woods or in the direction of the school, he said.

“Situations like that are very unfortunate for children in our school system,” Fell said. “I hate that they have to go through any possible fear, including parents. However, that’s a prime example of what a positive it is we have school protection officers in our schools that can act so quickly.”

According to the Vigo County School Corp., additional law enforcement officers and counselors will be present to provide support to both students and staff in the coming days.

Chris Switzer, Vigo County commissioner, is among those with children attending the school. Jhett is in kindergarten and Emma is a fourth-grader.

Switzer received several calls after scanner traffic indicated shots had been fired near the school.

“It’s the call no parent can comprehend or even be prepared for,” Switzer said on social media and later reiterated in an phone interview.

He and his wife, Jenifer, immediately drove to the school; by the time Switzer arrived, the 11-year-old was in custody and the investigation underway.

Switzer and his wife had just been to the school earlier in the day for a Christmas program. It was only about 45 minutes later that they returned.

Upon their arrival, “Emma was crying and Jhett was completely stunned. We were all crying,” Switzer said on social media.

“Nobody was injured and apparently no weapon entered the school. This is reality for our children, parents, teachers and administrators. Today we had a scare.”

He praised the response of law enforcement agencies and school protection staff.

“Although this was a terrible situation, I think we need to acknowledge how sincerely great our law enforcement agencies are.

“Once I arrived on scene, I immediately felt a sense of relief. There is no question that a deputy, trooper or officer would’ve protected our kids today no matter the risk,” Switzer stated.

“They would’ve engaged in any fight to protect my children and yours. The response was absolutely incredible and Jenifer and I are thankful.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue

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