Eight Anne Arundel County schools with thousands of students were locked down for several hours yesterday after a man showed up at a high school in women's clothing and asked to see a female student, authorities said.
The man, thought by police to be Antonio Moore, 20, of Brooklyn Park, left North County High School in Ferndale after an officer stationed at the school learned that the girl was not expecting a visitor and alerted police.
As a precaution, North County and four nearby elementary schools, two middle schools and an early education center - which have a combined enrollment of nearly 5,000 - were locked down, meaning that students and staff were instructed to stay in classrooms behind locked doors. Parents were told that they could not pick up their children.
The incident, occurring two days after a student at Virginia Tech University went on a shooting rampage, killing 32 people and himself, put local students and parents on edge.
Janet List said her granddaughter, a North County freshman, called her on her cell phone and said the school was on lockdown because a gunman was in the building.
"My first thought was, 'Oh, God. Not here, too,'" said Janet List, the grandmother. "We're all just so on edge with all this Virginia Tech stuff. I told her to crouch down and stay away from doors and windows, and hunker down by a wall somewhere."
There was no shooting in the school, but Bob Mosier, a county schools spokesman, said he understood why anyone might be skittish. He said the students and staff remained calm, as did the parents who had to wait outside for their students.
"I think everybody appreciated the caution," he said. "Virginia Tech is on the minds of everybody."
Police suspect Moore in the shooting of Michael Jay Francis, 21, on a Brooklyn Park street Saturday night, whose body they think was thrown into a car trunk. The car, a stolen Toyota Solara convertible, was later found abandoned with Francis' bloody clothes in the trunk, police said. Francis is considered "critically missing."
Mosier said police presence will be increased at the school today, and Lt. David Waltemeyer, a county police spokesman, said additional officers will be assigned to patrol the northern part of Anne Arundel County for a time.
The school resource officer said the suspicious man arrived at the school at 10:10 a.m. wearing a woman's blouse, Capri pants and a baseball cap, but clearly using a man's voice.
Suspicious, the officer tracked down the female student, and his talk with her suggested an association with Moore, Waltemeyer said. He did not have further details, and would not say whether the student was Moore's girlfriend, Sierra Monet Anderson, 18, who police think was in the passenger seat of the Solara on Saturday.
Two dozen police officers searched the hallways and classrooms of North County High and nearby Hilltop Elementary to make sure that the suspect had left.
Principal Frank Drazan said he made an announcement over the public address system asking students to remain in classrooms "to make sure we had every student accounted for."
Linthicum, Hilltop, George Cromwell and Park elementary schools, Lindale and Brooklyn Park middle schools and the Ferndale Early Education Center were also locked down as a precaution.
By 11:15 a.m., police determined that the man had left the area, Waltemeyer said. By 11:45 a.m., officers felt comfortable enough to escort seniors, many of whom have half-day schedules, out of the building.
The lockdowns were lifted at 12:23 p.m., and schools returned to their usual schedules for the rest of the day, except that all activities were held inside.
Anne Arundel County police were searching for Moore, Francis and Anderson, Moore's girlfriend, who is thought to have been a witness to Saturday's kidnapping and shooting.
Moore, of the 3800 block of Third St., has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and reckless endangerment, police said.
They said Moore should be considered armed and dangerous, and they ask anyone who knows where he is to call 911.
Sun reporter Anica Butler contributed to this article. To see images of the suspect taken by the school system's security cameras, go to www.baltimoresun.com/arundelschools.