CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police are still looking for a man who robbed the Premier Bank on South Church Street in Ripley Thursday morning.
Students at Ripley High School, Ripley Middle School, Ripley Elementary and Fairplain Elementary, as well as the nearby state Department of Education-owned Cedar Lakes Conference Center, were on lockdown Thursday and Friday.
Cedar Lakes operations manager Debbie Parsons said about 150 high school students were at the conference center for band camp.
“They thought it was exciting, but they’re from Cincinnati,” Parsons said. “They said, ‘We never thought anything like that would happen here. We’re used to that at home.’”
About 60 senior citizens were also there for Road Scholar crafting classes.
Parsons was at the gate around 7:30 Friday morning when a police officer drove through.
“I didn’t stop them,” she said. “They were in a hurry, like they knew where they were going. Another police officer came though and said the suspect had been spotted and pointed about 200 yards past the gate. We were hoping they would apprehend him, but we never got that word.”
About seven staff members had stayed overnight to keep watch over the area.
All of the buildings were locked, and Cedar Lakes staff brought meals to the groups instead of letting them walk to the cafeteria.
Police also escorted students to their buses when they left Friday afternoon.
Law enforcement told school staff the lockdown could be lifted at Ripley High, Ripley Middle and Ripley Elementary around 12 p.m. on Friday.
The lockdown at Fairplain Elementary was expected to continue until the end of the day.
Students were still dismissed from school at normal time on Thursday.
Jackson County Schools Superintendent Blaine Hess said school doors are already normally locked, but lockdown adds an extra layer of security. “We don’t have any outside activities,” he said. “No one from outside of the school can come into the school area.”
The school system also used an automated calling system to keep parents updated.
The bank was robbed at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Ripley police, Jackson County sheriff’s deputies and State Police responded.
State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said police were searching for a suspect by air with a State Police helicopter.
The suspect was described as a white male wearing black clothing and a black motorcycle helmet, Baylous said. He was carrying a tan bag and had a handgun.
Reach Erin Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.