Bennington school was placed on lockout as authorities searched for distraught man

Bennington Elementary School was placed on lockout Thursday as law enforcement officers from three agencies searched for a distraught man who may have been armed with a handgun.

The man was not located, but the lockout was lifted, according to Tom Wheeler, chief deputy of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Wheeler said at midday that officers were continuing to look for the man “to make sure he’s OK.”

Bennington Elementary at 11620 N. 156th St., was placed on lockout about 8:30 a.m., Wheeler said. The decision was made after parents of a 24-year-old man called 911 to say their son may have been carrying a gun when he left their Bennington home.

“He hasn’t committed any crime that we know of, but his parents are worried he could harm himself,” Wheeler said. “The decision to go on lockout was made out of an abundance of caution. We canceled the search after about two hours of looking for him.”

Deputies searching for the man were aided by the Bennington Police Department and a Nebraska State Patrol helicopter, Wheeler said. Deputies will continue to monitor the area near the school, he said.

Bennington Superintendent Terry Haack said the Sheriff’s Office recommended that schools in the district go into lockout mode. A lockout status means no one is allowed in or out of the schools, but classes inside the buildings continue as usual.

Haack said the lockout was in place for an hour to 90 minutes, and then the Sheriff’s Office gave the OK to lift it.

Three messages were sent to parents informing them about what was going on, Haack said. No students or staff were in any danger, he said.