The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Fundraiser Event Goes Into Code Red; Armed Suspect Caught Hiding Under Portable

As the “WJ’s Best Dance Crew” event began in the auditorium and a junior varsity boys basketball game was about to start in the gym on Friday evening, Principal Christopher Garran received alarming news from the police.


With a suspect running from the police in the WJ area, Garran decided to place the school in a Code Red status.

“I received a call on my cell phone from a sergeant in the Bethesda District telling me that he had an armed suspect headed toward WJ and that he might already be on campus,” said Garran.

According to Garran, the police told him that by the end of the 13-minute lockdown, the suspect was found under a portable and arrested on campus.

After getting the initial call, Garran was at the auditorium and alerted assistant principal Janan Slough, instructing her to secure the auditorium doors once they moved all students in the hallways into the auditorium. As Slough and other staff helped lead students at the auditorium event, Garran rushed to the gym to tell officials that he was temporarily suspending the basketball game, right as it was about to begin. He instructed the teams to go to the dance studio, and after introducing himself to the crowd in the stands, he asked them to follow the teams to the dance studio. Athletic director Sue Amos and JV basketball coach Brian Fairall worked to get everyone into the safe, locked-down area while Garran went to make an official announcement.

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“I then went to the main office and made a PA announcement letting everyone else in the building know that we were entering a Code Red,” said Garran.

During the lockdown, a police officer reported to WJ to relay information from the police to Garran. Staff members helped in the auditorium, including Slough, social studies teacher Nico Atencio, social studies teacher Micah Wiggins, music teacher Meghan Jost and math teacher Mike Egan. According to Garran, between the help of the staff, and the students, whom he says acted very maturely and followed instructions, everything went very smoothly.

After approximately 13 minutes, Garran was given an “all clear” from the police.

“[The police officer at WJ] was with me and gave me a ‘thumbs up’ as soon as the arrest was made,” said Garran. “Within minutes, the sergeant who first notified me sent a text indicating that we were all clear and an arrest had taken place.”

According to a police press release, the suspect, Andre French, a 21-year-old of Gaithersburg, was allegedly involved in an armed robbery in Silver Spring with two other men at approximately 2:53 p.m. during the same day. That evening, at approximately 4:58 p.m., the Montgomery County Police Emergency Communications Center received a call from an individual “who claimed that he had been kidnapped by two unknown males.”

The man, who was calling from a Bethesda Exxon station, said he was taken against his will in a white Lexus. The car matched the description of the vehicle involved in an armed robbery from earlier in the day. When Bethesda District police arrived to the scene, the “victim” pointed out two men standing nearby whom he claimed kidnapped him. One suspect complied with officers and was taken into custody, and the other, French, took off on foot.

“A Maryland State Police helicopter, MCP K-9 and Montgomery County Park Police K-9 officers assisted with the search,” stated the Montgomery County Police Department in a press release.

According to Garran’s information from the police, French was found hiding under a portable and arrested on school grounds. A police press release stated that French was armed at the time of his arrest. French was brought to the Silver Spring Police District. Further investigation determined that the self-claimed kidnapping “victim” was one of the armed robbery suspects, and had not been kidnapped. Also, during a search of the Lexus used by the three suspects during the armed robbery, marijuana was found.

After using Portable City as a hiding ground, French is being charged with robbery, armed robbery, theft over $1000, conspiracy to commit robbery, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, first-degree and second-degree assault and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana). He is currently being held without bond.

Approximately two hours after the incident, Garran sent a detailed e-mail to the PTSA listserv about the events that took place. He also stressed how proud he is of the students and staff for the way they acted to create a safe environment.

“This evening, our students were safe because of (1) the quick communication from the Montgomery County Police, (2) the dedicated commitment of the staff attending those events, (3) the fact that students pay attention to our drills on campus and (4) our students’ maturity and their seriousness of purpose,” he wrote to the listserv. “Once again, I go home very proud of this school community.”

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About the Contributor
Abby Singley, Online Editor-in-Chief
Abby Singley was on the Pitch staff since her sophomore year, and as a senior, she was Online Editor-in-Chief and the Print Copy Chief in 2010-2011. The previous year, Abby was the first online editor-in-chief, and was also a copy editor during her sophomore and junior years. She is excited to be involved with the up-and-coming Pitch Online and help bring news to the WJ community in a faster, more innovative way. When not scanning the online administrator page or copy editing articles, Abby likes reading pop culture and news magazines and Web sites. Although she does not know where she is going to school yet, Abby will be entering college as a journalism major next year.
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