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Whitwell woman charged after fireworks cause lockdown at Whitwell schools

Patricia Merritt

Patricia Merritt

All three Whitwell schools were placed on lockdown Wednesday morning after a Whitwell Middle parent threw M-80 fireworks at another student.

Police responded to a call of shots fired near Whitwell Middle to find 50-year-old Patricia Merritt of Whitwell lighting fireworks in the school’s parking lot.

According to reports, the lockdown only lasted 10 to 15 minutes, but it was a scary situation for parents and students during the morning drop-off time since students initially thought they heard gun shots going off as they entered the building.

Administrators with the school quickly took action as well, fearing that an active shooter might be on campus.

Marion County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, said in an interview with WRCB-TV that parents and buses dropping students off were not aware of what was going on and that it made it even more serious.

Officials say that students were allowed inside the schools, but were not allowed to leave until the situation was under control and an “all clear” was give.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett says that deputies immediately rushed into the school, not knowing what to expect and thinking it was possibly someone with a gun firing shots.

After investigation, officers charged Merritt with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. Reports state that she threw five M-80 firecrackers out of her car window directly at a middle school boy.

At this time it’s unclear why Merritt targeted the boy. School officials said it may have been connected to an alleged dispute between the boy and her daughter.

Administrators with the school called an assembly to clear up any rumors and calm the fears of students.

The two students at the center of this lockdown attended class on Wednesday. They will not be facing any disciplinary actions.

MarionCountyMessenger.com will continue to follow the latest on this developing story.

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