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Rowan school officer describes stopping teen with clown mask, knives

A school resource officer is speaking out for the first time after he was deemed a hero for stopping a middle school student armed with a clown mask and two butcher knives.

“It didn't really sink in until it was over with," Deputy Danny Lindley told WBTV.

The incident happened Tuesday morning at West Rowan Middle School in Salisbury.

Investigators say the student started waving a butcher knife 'wildly in the air' while wearing a clown mask. It happened in the school's cafeteria.

That's when Lindley found the 14-year-old student waving a 12-inch butcher knife.

“As I approached the cafeteria, like I say, a lot of the children were running out and when I first got into the cafeteria I saw a subject standing there wearing a clown mask and holding a butcher knife in his hand," Lindley said. “He was not moving, he was just standing there with the knife straight out in front of me, so I went for my asp baton, which is a metal pipe, and I decided that since he wasn't making any aggressive moves toward me that I would try and just disarm him and get him to lay the knife down, go with that approach first.”

Deputy Lindley said he had to hit the student with a baton in his forearm three times to get him to drop the knife. He immediately placed the boy in handcuffs.

“He eventually lowered it down by his side, but he didn't drop the knife, so after two more times of commanding him to drop the knife and he wasn't making any more moves, I stepped toward him and did a couple strikes with the asp baton," Lindley continued. “He dropped the knife then. He never said a word, he just stood there and I took him and put him against the wall and patted him down for additional weapons.”

Another butcher knife was found in the student's book bag, the sheriff said.

Wednesday morning, Lindley said he could have shot the teen, but decided to use a less lethal method to stop him.

“A person with a knife, we're basically trained that we can use up to and including deadly force," Lindley added. "I felt that since there were no other children around him and no one was in immediate danger that I would start at the lower end of the use of force continuum which would be the asp baton.”

The school says they did not go on lock down since the threat was quickly eliminated. No other students or staff members were injured during the incident.

The eighth grade student, who is described as a white male, will be evaluated by mental health personnel after some of the statements he made to the officer and school staff. Officials did not release what those statements were.

He was taken to the local medical center to be treated for his arm injury.

Officers say the investigation will continue once medical officials determine the type of treatment the student may require.

Deputy Lindley downplays any "hero" talk, saying he was doing his job, and praising the training that he and other staff members have received for such situations. Even so, he admits that the situation could have ended very badly.

‘I'm glad that it turned out the way it did, no one got hurt. A lot of people got scared, but no one was physically hurt. It could have been a lot worse and in the back of my mind I think, you know, I could have shot the kid, but I'm glad I didn't," Lindley said.

School officials say it shows the importance of the School Resource Officer program in middle schools. Those positions had been eliminated in Rowan County, but were brought back after grant money was found to fund the positions.

Resource Officers in Rowan-Salisbury middle schools were restored in March of this year.

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