VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A man who allegedly intruded on the campus of an elementary school Tuesday morning in Virginia Beach was arrested and charged, officials said.
Eileen Cox, a spokeswoman for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, said a stranger went onto Thalia Elementary School’s campus just before 8:10 a.m.
The school went on lockdown until police arrived.
Virginia Beach police said officers detained a unarmed man who had entered the school and was in the gym. No students were in the gym at the time.
Police later identified the man as 22-year-old Joseph Andrew Miller. He was charged with trespass on school property and disturbing the peace.
“Anytime you see somebody that doesn’t belong, you always think the worst. Certainly you have to respond as if it’s the worst case scenario,” said Dick Ponti, head of school security.
School officials still aren’t sure what he was doing, but they say they don’t believe he was there to harm the kids.
“He was fearful, disoriented and didn’t have any shoes on his feet,” Ponti said. “He wasn’t there to cause problems.”
Miller said in court Wednesday he didn’t mean to go inside the school, claiming he was dropped off there to get some help.
A message about the incident was sent to parents and guardians Tuesday morning:
Good morning, parents. This is Dr. Wilkerson, principal of Thalia Elementary School, calling with an important message about school safety. I want to let you know that earlier today, the school was placed on a brief lockdown after a stranger made his way onto campus. Students and staff remained in classrooms and all doors were locked. I want to reassure you that our students and staff remained safe at all times, and the incident was confined to one area of campus away from our children. Police and the school division’s Office of Safety and Loss Control responded to our school, and the person was taken into custody. Because this is a police matter, I do not have any additional information to share with you at this time; however, I will update you when with another Alert Now message when possible. I want to thank you for your understanding and for your continued support of Thalia Elementary School.
Miller was appointed a public defender for a bond hearing, which is scheduled for June 1. His trial is scheduled for July 10.
A judge on Wednesday ordered Miller to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Parents like Sas Harris were relieved to find out everything ended okay
“No parent wants to get that call saying their kid got hurt at school,” Harris said. “That’s one place that you think your kids should always be safe.”
Ponti credits staff at Thalia. He says the school is required to do at least four lockdown drills a year.