Darlington Elementary School was locked down for several hours Tuesday afternoon after Pennsylvania and Maryland state police troopers pursued a suspect through the area.
Harford County Public Schools spokeswoman Teri Kranfeld said the school was placed in a modified lockdown around noon. The lockdown continued though the school’s 3:30 p.m. dismissal, which occurred as usual after police conducted a thorough search of the area and remained at the school to ensure students’ safety, she said.
Under a modified lockdown, no one is allowed to enter or leave the building but students can move around the school and classes proceeded as usual, Kranefeld said. Parents were advised of the developing situation by two robo-calls from Principal Brenda Taylor.
According to Pennsylvania State Police community services officer Tpr. Stefanie Trazaska, the incident began at approximately 11:30 a.m. when Cpl. Christopher Cope attempted to stop a vehicle in Fulton Township, Pa. after recognizing a passenger in the car as Carl Sexton, 43, of Oxford, Pa. Sexton was wanted for violating his parole on a previous burglary charge. When Cope attempted to stop the car, it sped off, fleeing on southbound Route 222 into Maryland.
The pursuit continued into Harford County, Trazaska said, until the vehicle’s driver pulled off the road and into a cornfield on the 2300 block of Shuresville Road in Darlington. The driver 30-year-old Joseph Apitsch of Maryland, immediately surrendered to Pennsylvania State Police; Trazaska said a more specific hometown for Apitsch was not immediately available. A second passenger, Gail Olson, 27, of no fixed address, was also taken into custody, but Sexton fled through the corn less than a half-mile from the elementary school.
Maryland State Police canine and aviation units assisted in a search for Sexton, but Trazaska said he had not been located as of Tuesday evening. Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies assisted in securing the school.
Sexton is described as 5-feet, 10-inches tall, weighing 160 pounds with long brown hair. He was last seen wearing a black t-shirt and dark jeans. Trazaska said Sexton was believed to be armed with a knife.
Darlington Elementary School serves approximately 130 students from kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Harford County Public Schools web site.
The text of Taylor’s robo-calls follows.
Dagger Contributing Editor Cindy Mumby provided additional reporting for this story.
Script of Call #1:
Good afternoon, this is Brenda Taylor, principal of Darlington Elementary School, calling to notify you that we executed a modified lock down today on the advice from the Maryland State Police as a precaution for a suspect on the loose in the area. The lock down allows students to travel within the building only. All students, staff and visitors are prohibited from traveling outside the building, and no one is permitted to enter the building. This procedure allows for our students to remain in a safe, contained environment while they continue with instruction as normal. We will have extra police presence at dismissal as a precaution. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me at school. As always, thank you for your continued support of Darlington Elementary School. Again, this is Principal Brenda Taylor. Have a good evening.
Script of Call #2:
This is Brenda Taylor, principal of Darlington Elementary School, calling with an update. As we are near the end of our school day, we are going to continue with our lockdown as a precautionary measure. Please know that a thorough search of the area has been conducted by law enforcement. As such, we will dismiss students at our regular time dismissal time of 3:30 p.m., however we will have police presence on site just to err on the side of caution. As always, thank you for your patience and understanding as we worked through this situation today. Again, this is Principal Brenda Taylor.