THORNTON - A replica gun prompted a massive police operation and an evacuation of a high school in Thornton Friday morning.
Police say a report of a gun near Thornton High School turned out to be a student's replica AK-47, which was part of a school project.
Adams County Sheriff's Office deputies and Thornton Police gave the "all clear" following a thorough search of the school.
The misunderstanding occurred at 11:38 a.m., when a student was outside the school waiting for his mother to pick up his history project.
At that same time, another student told a teacher he saw the student with what appeared to be a weapon.
The teacher looked out the window and observed the same thing. Authorities were notified.
Thornton High School was immediately placed on lockdown while police investigated.
Thornton Elementary and Middle schools, as well as Coronado Hills Elementary School, McElwain Elementary School, International School at Thornton Middle School were placed on lockout during the investigation as well.
Students were evacuated onto buses and driven to 88th Avenue and Grant Street where parents could pick them up. Students who drove cars were able to pick up their vehicles at the school.
Thornton Police communications director Matt Barnes says at 12:49 p.m., during the investigation, a parent called police and said she had picked up her son's school project earlier in the day which involved a replica rifle.
During an interview, the student in question told police he took his history class project to school on Wednesday. The project, entitled "Fallen Soldier Battle Cross," involved a display rifle, helmet and boots.
Police say this came down to a communication issue. Someone should have let the school resource officer or the principal know that a gun replica was going to be on campus.
The school district has a policy towards replicas like this. Anyone displaying or threatening use of a gun lookalike can face serious discipline.
By all accounts that's not what happened here. The policy does say students can apply for a waiver with the principal.
The case remains under investigation. No arrests or charges have been filed. The case will be presented to the Adams County District Attorney's office for review.
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