A Snapchat video that reportedly showed a person "flashing gang signs" at Wando High School prompted a nearly two-hour lockdown on the campus Thursday afternoon.

Many Wando students and parents were anxious as they waited, uncertainty fueled in part by the lack of available information as the situation unfolded.

Meredith Silecchia, 16, described the event in an interview outside a security gate at the school after the lockdown was lifted. The frazzled voice of a woman boomed over the PA system around 12:45 p.m.

"This is a code red," the voice said. "Lockdown."


Aerial view of Wando High School in Mount Pleasant. Leroy Burnell/Staff

Silecchia and her peers in an English class scurried from their seats, attempting to take cover from the unnamed threat. 

"It was a pretty scary experience," Silecchia said. "Two and a half hours, we were stuck in a room ... we were locked in."

Officers responded to the Wando campus around 12:50 p.m. for a suspicious activity call, said Chip Googe, a Mount Pleasant Police Department spokesman. 

"The complainant saw a Snapchat video of an individual possibly flashing gang signs while at Wando High School," Googe said. "The complainant told a school resource officer that the individual was armed and there to possibly harm her son."

Wando staff also received a report shortly before 1 p.m. claiming that someone was on the campus with a weapon, according to a statement by Andy Pruitt, a Charleston County School District spokesman. The report did not say what kind of weapon the person had.

The lockdown was lifted at 2:25 p.m. after the situation was cleared by law enforcement.

Police detained the person of interest in Charleston near the Medical University of South Carolina, Googe said.

Several surrounding schools and other facilities were also placed on lockdown Thursday afternoon.

Carolina Park Elementary went on Code Yellow, Pruitt said in an interview. The Children's Center at Carolina Park, located near the Wando Center for Advanced Studies, was also on lockdown as was Oceanside Collegiate Academy.

Caroline Cox, a senior, said she and others were in a trailer classroom where a teacher had blocked the doors with desks and chairs.

"Everyone is very anxious to hear what is really going on, rumors keep circulating and nobody knows what to believe," Cox said.

Michelle Brooks, a Wando parent, texted with her daughter as the lockdown continued. Her daughter told her that students were crying as they hid in their classroom, fearing a gunman had entered the third floor of the Center for Advanced Studies.

"My daughter is very scared," Brooks said.

As the afternoon wore on, parents waited at a checkpoint outside Wando. 

Standing outside the school's security gate as the rain fell, Sonya Phibbs paced anxiously back and forth, checking her phone incessantly. Her two stepchildren were still inside the school.

"I’m gonna be the first one in," she said. "I just want my eyes on them."

Wando lockdown

Mount Pleasant Police are outside of Wando High School ins response to a reported "suspicious person" on campus. Michael Majchrowicz/Staff

Despite the ordeal, some students tried to find a silver lining.

"We have been continuously shaking and fighting tears through this tragic time," said Carly Furmanchick and Brooke Medders via text message during the lockdown. "But hey! So far, so good! An extra memorable moment for senior year!"

Brooks Brunson, Paul Bowers, Jennifer Berry Hawes, Michael Majchrowicz, Deanna Pan and Jeff Hartsell contributed to this report. 

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.