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'Intruder' Scare Response Praised by DA

District Attorney James Martin said the massive emergency response stemmed from initial call that man at Parkland High School appeared to be wearing suicide-bomb vest.

Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin commended law enforcement agencies Tuesday for their handling of the Parkland "intruder" case and disclosed more information on what had triggered the massive emergency response.

Four hours after a call came in that a man was seen outside Parkland High School wearing what appeared to be a suicide-bomb vest, law enforcement found and contacted the person. 

The person in question was a high school student who had been exercising and who had been wearing what appeared to be a camouflage vest. The student plans to go into the military and had placed sand-filled water bottles in his vest to enhance his workout, according to a news release from the district attorney's office.

“What happened from the time of the initial call to police until the school was declared safe, was a coordinated response by many agencies who pooled their discipline and training in a situation where calmness and swift reaction were necessary to ensure the safety of everyone in the school,” Martin said in the prepared release.

“For the students and personnel inside the school and the anxious parents outside the school who had received alarming communications from their children, it was a harrowing experience.”

“Fortunately, we could allay their fears. I hope the community takes comfort in knowing that law enforcement agencies were ready to handle the situation and knew what they had to do and how to do it. If this had been a serious threat, agencies were prepared and their personnel conducted themselves admirably.”

Thirty-three agencies responded to a request by South Whitehall police for assistance, including Salisbury Township Police, fire departments, emergency response teams, ambulance services and emergency management.

Eighty percent of those responding to a Patch poll said the massive emergency response was appropriate. 

South Whitehall police Lt. John T. Christman said that, given the size of the high school, the department knew it could not search its five wings alone.

“There are more than 200 exterior doors,” Christman said in the prepared release. “We knew it would probably take five or six hours to search the building.”

The department asked for assistance from surrounding departments, and emergency management from Lehigh County, South Whitehall and Upper Macungie Township summoned fire and ambulance crews to stand by, Christman said in the release. North Penn Goodwill Fire Department in Montgomery County brought food, beverages and supplies for first responders.

Those responding to the "intruder" report knew their role and had a rough idea of the high school's layout, thanks to a drill at the school in August, Christman said.

According to the district attorney's office, the following agencies responded to the incident: police from South Whitehall, Catasauqua, Emmaus, Salisbury Township,, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"salisbury-township-police-department"} --> Coopersburg, Macungie, Whitehall Township, Alburtis, Berks-Lehigh Regional, Allentown and Bethlehem; Pennsylvania State Police, who dispatched investigators and a helicopter; members of the Lehigh County Homicide Task Force, Auto Theft Task Force and Drug Task Force; emergency response teams from Lehigh County, Bethlehem and Allentown; an Allentown bomb squad; ambulance services from , Allentown, Macungie and Northern Valley; emergency management from Lehigh County, South Whitehall and Upper Macungie; fire department personnel from , , TriClover, 

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