Reason for Cordley Elementary lockout was police dealing with nearby mental health crisis

The main entrance on the south side of Cordley Elementary School is shown in this photo from September 2015.

Cordley Elementary School was placed on lockout Friday afternoon as police responded to a potentially dangerous “mental health crisis” in the neighborhood.

Lawrence police did not respond to the Journal-World’s request for information on the day of the incident, but in a media email Monday morning, Officer Derrick Smith said officers were dispatched to the 1800 block of Massachusetts Street around 11:55 a.m. Friday.

There, officers found an “agitated” man parked in his car behind a business. The man, who initially refused to exit his vehicle, made statements suggesting he wished to “die via suicide by cop and repeatedly asked officers to shoot him,” Smith wrote in the email.

“Due to this potential threat to the public and the proximity to Cordley Elementary, the school was notified and went into ‘Level 1 lock down,'” Smith said.

Cordley is located near the intersection of 18th and Massachusetts streets, at 1837 Vermont St.

Neighbors were also informed of the potential threat and agreed to vacate the area, Smith said. After about an hour of negotiation, officers were able to coax the distressed man out of his car “peacefully,” Smith said, after which the man was transported to an area hospital for a mental health screening.

Julie Boyle, the Lawrence school district’s director of communications, said in an email that Cordley staff locked all exterior doors, restricted access in and out of the building and moved recess indoors until hearing from police that the situation had been resolved.

Boyle called this protocol a lockout, the term many school districts use in describing potentially dangerous scenarios where the perceived threat is outside the school. The more serious “lockdown” designation means the perceived threat is already inside the building.

Throughout the incident Friday, “there was no threat to the safety of students or staff,” Boyle said.