Note: This story was last updated at 4:50 p.m.
The Oak Ridge Preschool was temporarily locked down on Tuesday afternoon after a robbery was reported at a nearby medical office.
The robbery was reported at about 1:03 p.m. Tuesday at Oak Ridge Medical Clinic at 170 West Tennessee Avenue, on the north side of Methodist Medical Center and about a block away from the preschool. A woman reported that she was robbed of her purse and contents worth an estimated $300.
“The victim had parked her vehicle in the parking lot of the medical center, and as she was walking into the building, the suspect approached, violently grabbed her purse, and knocked her to the ground,” a City of Oak Ridge press release said.
The Oak Ridge police and fire departments and Anderson County EMS responded, and police set up a perimeter around the area. A canine unit was sent to help search for the suspect.
The Oak Ridge Police Department said the suspect fled on foot, running northbound through residential lots toward the Oak Ridge Preschool and School Administration Building at 304 New York Avenue.
The Preschool was locked down at about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday as officers searched for the suspect. Bus drivers briefly waited with their buses on the other side of New York Avenue on West Newcomb Road before being allowed to pull in front of the Preschool after the lockdown was lifted.
ORPD school resource officers responded to help escort preschool students to buses and waiting parents after classes let out, the press release said.
Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi said he was at the preschool when it was locked down at his request. The press release said the police chief was in constant contact with Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers, who helped coordinate the lockdown with Preschool and SAB staff.
The lockdown was lifted at 2:11 p.m.
“At no time throughout the lockdown were students, staff, or parents in any apparent danger,” Akagi said. “We train for these events, and our officers respond to similar incidents every day.”
Akagi said the school staff and administrators performed very well, and he has not seen a better response. He praised it for being orderly and professional.
“I am not sure we could have done any better than the Preschool staff, who had very obviously rehearsed lockdown procedures and (were) extremely skilled in staying calm and keeping superb control over themselves and their students in an understandably stressful situation.
“Their response was textbook,” Akagi said. “They should be very proud of themselves.”
The press release said a suspect was not located, and the investigation continues. The ORPD said no further details will be released at this time.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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