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LPS security director spots one of shooting suspects hiding under slide on Hartley playground
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LPS security director spots one of shooting suspects hiding under slide on Hartley playground

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One of the suspects in the shooting of a Lincoln police officer Wednesday picked the wrong playground slide as a hiding place.

The slide on the Hartley Elementary School playground was near a school window, one Lincoln Public Schools Security Director Joe Wright happened to be looking out of when he saw one of the suspects take refuge under the slide.

Wright, who spent 26 years on the Lincoln police force before heading up LPS security, called 911 and told officers in the area he’d spotted a suspect on the playground.

Lincoln police arrested the man a short time later.

Wright was overseeing the security protocols at Hartley after LPD called to let him know it planned to serve a search warrant nearby, across 33rd Street on Vine Street.

Watch Now: Lincoln officer in critical condition after shooting, suspects in custody

The school was in “secure” mode, used when there’s a threat outside the building. Students and staff come inside, outside doors are locked, but school goes on as normal.

Wright was standing outside the main door on the west side of the school with a police officer when they heard gunshots coming from the house across the street and saw two men run east, to the north side of the school.

Wright ran inside the school to make sure administrators went from secure mode to lockdown.

The lockdown protocol requires interior doors be locked, lights turned off, students remain silent and move to a corner so they can’t be seen from outside the classroom door.

Before one of the suspects ran onto the playground and into Wright’s line of sight, the security director had seen police officers in the area, and put the school back in secure mode.

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Lockdown, which are the protocols followed if there’s an intruder in the school, are hard on kids, he said, so he didn’t want to keep them in lockdown if the suspects had left the area.

After he saw the suspect under the slide and called 911, he had administrators go back into lockdown since police had not yet found the second suspect.

He modified the lockdown procedures because there was no threat inside the building: interior doors stayed locked and kids stayed in their classrooms, but the lights were on, kids sat at their desks and teachers kept teaching. The principal made sure teachers knew there they were safe.

Once police arrested the second suspect, who’d run into a nearby house, the school went back to normal.

'Get the hell out of here': Lincoln neighbors come face-to-face with fleeing suspect

Lunch had been postponed since kids had to stay in their classrooms once the lockdown was lifted, Wright said.

School got out at the normal time, though parents picked their kids up on the west side of the school, away from the playground.

The protocols worked well, and parents followed requests that they not come to the school because their students were safe, and students did great, Wright said.

“Our kids were awesome."

Victim of Lincoln shooting may have showed gun first, according to court records

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or

On Twitter @LJSreist


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Local government reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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