Evacuation of Thornton H.S. caused by replica gun for school project

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THORNTON, Colo. -- It was a scene reminiscent of Columbine. Police pour into a Thornton high school, as students evacuate, after reports of a person near the school with an assault rifle.

The chaotic morning ends peacefully nearly three hours later. It was a false alarm.

It appears the assault rifle was a fake--used in a class project.

Police got a 911 call from the school at 11:38 a.m. A student and a teacher saw a male carrying what looked like an assault rifle outside Thornton High School at 9351 Washington St.

The high school--and next-door Bollman Tech--immediately go into lockdown as police arrive to thwart any danger.

"It's pretty scary right now. It's pretty surreal," says parent Robert Hernandez.

Instead of the usual school buses, a convoy of cop cars crowd Thornton High. "Today, I drive up and see police officers on the roof with submachine guns," says Hernandez.

What should have been a carefree last day of school was anything but.

"Students reporting a kid with an assault rifle just walked past the front doors," says a dispatcher on the Radio Reference website.

Police from several departments arrive to face a threat allegedly by a student outside the Adams County 12 high school

"Any descriptions or direction of travel? Black shorts, black shirt, heading south past the front doors," says an officer on Radio Reference.

They lockdown the school. Then, they evacuate students, hand-in-hand they board waiting school busses. Worried parents wait to hear if their children are safe.

"Overwhelmed. Scared. He's my only kid," says Lisa Luepke, the mother of a freshman.

"This is all a precaution. No one is hurt," an officer tells a mother at a road block near the school.

Police tell mothers and fathers to pick up their kids at a nearby RTD Park-&-Ride,

"Little nerve-wracking, scary because you don't know what's going on. Right now, we can't find my son," says Rebecca Shields about her 16-year-old.

Hundreds of parents piling into the parking lot creates gridlock. "My mom is here. She is over there somewhere stuck in traffic," says sophomore Alex Newman.

In the end, police don’t find the threat.

But students find their last day of school at once confusing and exhilarating.

"Wow, there's people with guns in my school," says Newman, of what he calls a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Parents are grateful it ended as it did.

"I am relieved no one was hurt. We've had our share of tragedies in Colorado," says Luepke.

It turns out a student's history project included a replica of a rifle. Here's the details in a statement from Thornton Police:

"At approximately 12:49 pm, a parent called Thornton Police Dispatch and stated that she had picked up a school project from her son at Thornton High School earlier today that involved a replica rifle."

"Investigators responded and took possession of the display. The student was subsequently interviewed and stated that he had brought in a history class project to school on Wednesday, May 22, that involved a memorial display involving a ‘Fallen Soldier Battle Cross.'"

"The display involved a rifle, helmet and boots. He stated that his mom had responded to the school earlier today and picked up his class project. He stated that he had carried it out of the school and to his awaiting mother in the parking lot. The rifle utilized in this display was a replica AK-47," the Thornton Police statement concluded.