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Meridian Elementary reopens with added safety measures following lockdown

The plans include more safety officers on campus along with measures to better secure the building and changes to spaces children use.

KENT, Wash. — Students and staff at Meridian Elementary in Kent are expected to return to school Monday, Nov. 21, after it was closed for four days following a lockdown.

The school sent an email to parents and staff to outline specific added safety measures that will be in place starting Nov. 21. The plans include more safety officers on the campus, measures to better secure the building and changes to spaces children use.

The district said it did a thorough walk-through of the school campus with safety officials and maintenance staff before establishing added safety measures.

An incident involving a man making threatening comments toward Meridian Elementary forced the school into lockdown on Nov. 14. The school closed for the rest of the week.

Kent Police said a 26-year-old man was armed with a rifle at home near the school on Nov. 14. 

Several Meridian teachers told KING 5 the man was on the school campus. Police said he was erratic. The man was taken into custody on Nov. 16.

For several days, community members said they were concerned about the man's custody status.

KING 5 was unable to locate him in the inmate lookup system for the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD).

KING 5 originally reached out to the King County Prosecuting Attorney Office (PAO) early in the morning on Nov. 21 for assistance in determining the man's custody status. However, in a response to KING 5, the PAO said a criminal case was not sent to King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. For this reason, the office had not declined charges and without a case, King County Prosecutors do not have an opportunity to argue for someone to be held.

Kent Police continue to investigate the case.

On the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 22, Kent community members gathered for a listening session at Faith Church regarding the incident.

KING 5 was in attendance and spoke to Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla about the man's custody status.

Chief Padilla said, under law officers cannot force their way into a home in a mental health case despite widespread community concern.

The man at the center of the ongoing investigation was in the hospital as of Tuesday night's meeting and was waiting for an evaluation, according to Kent Police.

Chief Padilla expressed his concerns that the man could be set free if he was not committed to mental health treatment.

"My biggest concern is that he will be found to be incompetent which means all the criminal charges are now null and void and he won't be committed, so he could be released," Chief Padilla said. "I have no law for authority to interfere with his freedom at that point until something happens."

Chief Padilla said bail was set at $500,000 for the charge of intimidating a teacher.

"I think our judges understand the greater concern particularly when it comes to school-age kids," Chief Padilla. "I think the judges were sending a statement of...we want the opportunity to bring this person in and make sure we're not releasing him prematurely before we have a chance for a psychological eval and all those things."

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Chief Padilla said he wants the community to know KPD will protect students and respond when called upon.

"We can learn about the communication misses we had on this incident, but ultimately none of our kids were injured," Chief Padilla said. "All of them went home safe. There was some discomfort and a little bit of trauma from the experience but that is far better than what the alternative would have been. We're going to do everything to keep them safe."

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