A high school student trying to get in shape for military boot camp inadvertently triggered a massive emergency response Friday at Parkland High School, law enforcement and school officials said.
The student's behavior appeared suspicious to a Parkland teacher, who saw him sweating, in a flak jacket, making a salute and saying a prayer at the flag pole about 4:45 p.m. before he ran off, officials said. She called the Lehigh County Communications Center to report it.
But the student's behavior turned out to be innocent, said Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin at a 10 p.m. press conference held with South Whitehall officials and the Parkland School District superintendent.
Officers had responded to the school after the call came in, and officials determined the teacher's description warranted that the emergency team be activated, Martin said.
In early evening, law enforcement began a sweep of the high school, looking for an intruder -- an effort that included law enforcement agencies from throughout Lehigh County, including Allentown and Salisbury police departments. The dozens of police and emergency crews staged in the school's lower parking lot. The response included a K-9 unit and a state police helicopter.
Given the size of the high school, South Whitehall police Lt. John Christman said, law enforcement personnel were only about one-fifth of the way through the building, even using a robot, in their attempt to find the intruder when the effort was called off.
Martin said a county detective had been at the high school picking up his daughter around 4:30 p.m., and told authorities, "You know, I saw a guy dressed similarly" to the person they were looking for. Through subsequent phone calls, Martin said, police were able to locate and identify the student, and talked to him by phone.
Based on the information the student provided, including how he had been dressed, Martin said law enforcement could say with a "complete degree of confidence" that there was no intruder at Parkland High School Friday and that the suspicious person spotted was the student who was exercising.
"This was quite an event that had a lot of people on their toes," Parkland School Superintendent Richard Sniscak said.
Sniscak thanked the emergency responders. He said the first thoughts were for the health and welfare of the district's students.
Martin praised the district's handling of logistics. He said the costs of the emergency response will be absorbed by the various departments that responded. He did not put a figure on cost.
When the emergency was first activated, students were evacuated and was locked down for about four hours. Students were on the football field, a volleyball game was going on (and cancelled), and swimmers were in the pool. Students were bused to the district's Troxell building, where they could be picked up by family.
Police diverted traffic on Cedar Crest Boulevard and closed access to the school complex during the search.
Parkland School District practiced for such an event last month with an "active shooter" drill simulating the .
Parkland High School is a sprawling building in South Whitehall off Cedar Crest Boulevard. It has 3,200 students. The 10 p.m. press conference was held more than a mile away, in a parking lot at 1600 Cedar Crest Blvd.