Police step up security at local schools following Md. sniper attack

Prince William school and police authorities, along with their Manassas counterparts, are increasingly vigilant around the county and near schools after the Washington, D.C.-area sniper apparently struck again Monday.

School officials also made a number of significant changes in every-day operations to guarantee student safety, while Prince William police increased patrols.

Ballistics tests late Monday linked the shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Bowie, Md., to the slayings of six people in Maryland and Washington, D.C., last week, officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said.

The child, who was in critical but stable condition Monday at Children’s Hospital in Washington, was being dropped off at Benjamin Tasker Middle School by an aunt that morning.

Police also connected the Friday shooting of a Virginia woman at a Spotsylvania County Michael’s craft store to the sniper. The 43-year-old mother of three is listed in fair condition Monday.

The FBI, ATF, Montgomery County police and Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s office are working the cases.

Prince William police are increasing patrols in the area near schools and large shopping areas, Chief Charlie T. Deane said Monday.

“We have officers in a number of schools as a normal course of business,” Deane said. “Those officers have been kept up to date as far as what’s going on.”

Deane said that in addition to the police officers in public schools, each school has additional security staff as well.

Manassas police stand ready to increase patrols and move officers to 12-hour shifts if need be, said spokesman Sgt. Marc Woolverton.

“There is no way to truly prepare,” Woolverton said. “We will be prepared to react as we have in any other major crime-scene incident.”

Prince William county public schools canceled all outdoor activities and field trips Monday and today. Manassas schools did so for Monday.

Both school systems are keeping students on a normal schedule, school officials said. They also continued normal indoor schedules.

Bonny Fahy, spokeswoman for Prince William schools, said authorities are confident that students are safe.

“We have been told that the police have stepped up their presence around the schools,” she said. “We’re confident that the security measures we always take are good.”

Any visitors to schools must present valid identification as always, Fahy said.

“I was in touch with the school superintendent there this morning,” Deane said. “We have made sure that the school security and our staff have been in coordination with each other.”

Manassas schools spokesman Al Radford said in a Monday press release that city schools are in a “limited lockdown.”

Manassas Park schools have set a security alert of “code yellow,” said Thomas DeBolt, Manassas Park superintendent. Code yellow means that students will be required to stay indoors. Schools there are continuing on a normal schedule.

The Construction Technology Expo originally scheduled for today at the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College has been postponed. It will be rescheduled at the earliest date possible.

For more information, contact Linda Morgan Malami at (703) 257-6634.

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