A vehicle crashes into the gates of the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, putting the school on hold
Video: Filming near Dreyfoos School of the Arts, school in lockdown
A vehicle sped through the gate of the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, students at the school confirmed to The Palm Beach Post. school, locked.
Giuseppe Sabella, Palm Beach Post
WEST PALM BEACH – A man made it out of a wrecked van into the theater at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, where he was involved in a fight with a school police officer when a city police officer arrived and shot him dead on Friday afternoon, West Palm, the spokesman said of the Beach Police, Mike Jachles.
Students were on campus but not in the main theater hall where the shooting took place, he said.
Jachles said city police were called to campus after the van crashed and arrived within a minute of that call. Around the same time, emergency services had received another call about a wrong-way driver in a van of the same description.
It was unclear whether the man had a gun, Jachles said at a press conference at the school. What is certain, he said, is that the man behaved erratically and got into a fight on the student-filled campus during the school day.
The city official fired once and the man fell to the ground. Authorities immediately began resuscitation, but the man, who was not identified, died.
Dreyfoos students and staff are all traceable and unharmed.
“We were extremely fortunate that this suspect did not harm or harm anyone else,” Jachles said.
Superintendent Mike Burke agreed, adding, “I want to reassure our parents that all of our students, as well as the school district staff, are safe.”
The incident happened just before noon and shortly after dispatchers received calls about a pickup truck going the wrong way on Banyan Boulevard, four blocks north of the school.
The students were finishing their lunch break when the van crashed through the school’s closed metal gates overlooking Tamarind Avenue. It plowed through campus, hit a palm tree, killed several wind tunnel towers and narrowly missed personnel in a golf cart, Jachles said.
The man then got out and ran erratically across campus. He was confronted by a school police officer in the auditorium. Jachles said the man was engaged in “a violent altercation” when a city police officer arrived and shot the intruder.
Police could not identify the officer who pulled the trigger. According to department protocol following a shooting, this officer is on paid leave, Jachles said.
Dreyfoos is the premier high school for the performing arts in the Palm Beach County School District, located north of Okeechobee Boulevard just west of The Square.
About 1,400 students are enrolled, though many seniors were off campus on Friday, having finished the academic year the day before.
With lunch just ending, not all students were in the classrooms when the van crash put the campus in an emergency lockdown.
Students from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts describe the incident
Lucas Solano, a freshman, said they heard a loud crash over lunch. Immediately, they said, “crowds” ran toward the cafeteria exit.
“It was messy,” they said. “I panicked but they told us to calm down.”
Lydia Akdag, a second-year student, said she was in the theater building when the students started walking.
‘What’s going on?’ she called out. Someone replied as they walked past, “There’s a code in red.”
Akdag ran too.
“I’ve tried asking teachers and all they say is, ‘We have it under control,'” she said. “But they don’t really say anything.”
The teachers ushered her and a group of other students into the band room, where they waited with the doors closed and the lights off. Everyone was silent, said Akdag. The police arrived about 45 minutes later and filed them into the cafeteria.
“I’ve heard stories but it doesn’t really hit you until it happens to you,” Akdag said.
In fact, the narrative is all-too-familiar tales of running and hiding and texting loved ones while being gripped by insecurity.
“Suddenly we hear screams,” said freshman Jaynald Obilas. “We only hear screams from everywhere.”
When a staff member asked the students to take shelter in the next room, Obilas and a dozen classmates found themselves hiding in the nurse’s office. The teenage musician said he spent about two hours in that room, texting family members, peering out the window and checking the internet for updates.
About a dozen children ran off campus heading northwest from the school to Azul Stone, a granite and marble store on the corner of Tamarind Avenue and Fern Street, where they sheltered for about an hour and a half while two women worked there.
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Across town, Bob Sullivan was shopping at Aldi when he received a series of text messages from his daughter.
“Hi dad, we are on a red code right now. It is real. I love you,” she wrote.
Sullivan dropped his groceries and rushed to school, imagining the “worst-case scenario,” he said, fighting back tears.
Meanwhile, his daughter, an 11th grade fine arts student, took refuge behind a locked door in a women’s locker room as the incident unfolded.
Sullivan reached a sea of red and blue lights. He was standing behind yellow police tape near Fern Street and South Sapodilla Avenue, reading new text messages from his daughter.
She heard a knock on the door as someone announced “police,” but she hesitated to leave. Sullivan coordinated their rescue from off campus and spoke to a police officer, who assured the father that it was now “100% safe” for his daughter to come out of hiding.
All he could do was wait. Sullivan stared at the campus, anxiously awaiting news of his daughter.
Sullivan said his family lived in Parkland as of 2018. They felt an immediate surge of sadness following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and on Friday afternoon those memories flooded back.
“She’s safe but traumatized,” Sullivan said of his daughter.
As Obilas, the freshman musician, said when he finally left campus around 3:20 p.m., “I’m just glad it’s all over and we’re safe.”
In 2013, two janitors were killed on a campus vacant by students. Christopher Marshall (48) and Ted Orama (56) died. Javier Burgo, who had been on the run for four years, was sentenced to life imprisonment.