Police searching Midtown for man who broke into child-occupied SUV

Columbus Police are searching for a man who entered an occupied vehicle on College Drive near Hardaway High School this morning, but fled when the owners confronted him, according to Lt. Ronnie Hastings.

An elementary-age child was alone in his parents' SUV as they briefly went back in their home to get another child when a man opened the door and climbed into the cargo area and began rummaging through items in the vehicle, Hastings said.

"When the parents came out, they spotted each other," Hastings said. "He said he just wanted money, panicked and took off on foot."

The suspect is a white male, wearing black pants or jeans, a long-sleeve camouflage T-shirt, is between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8, wearing a camouflage back pack and thin build, according to police. The child inside the vehicle reported the man had a gun and the parents thought they saw a gun, Hastings said.

"But he never pointed the weapon at anybody," Hastings said.

The incident caused some concern at nearby schools. A relative of a Hardaway High School employee texted the Ledger-Enquirer that the school was on lockdown, along with Richards Middle School and Clubview Elementary School. Muscogee County School District students had Friday off while teachers had a work day.

MCSD security director Scott Thomann said nobody ordered those schools to be locked down. The instruction, he said, was to ensure that the exterior doors were secure because employees were in the buildings while police were looking for a suspect in the neighborhood, but no threat was imminent to the schools.

“I don’t know what the schools actually communicated to them,” Thomann said, “but we, from a security standpoint, never issued the order to lock down.”

Clubview principal Lorrie Watt said Hardaway principal Matt Bell and a district security officer notified her of the concern around 8:45 a.m. Watt didn’t put Clubview on “official lockdown,” she said, but “I told them to treat it like a lockdown.” That meant , she said, “I asked the faculty to keep the doors locked and stay inside, but we were all moving around inside the building.” If students would have been at the school, she said, “everyone would have stayed in their classroom.”

Around 10 a.m., a district security officer notified Watt that “police were leaving the scene and everything was fine,” she said.