Man with gun arrested near Powhatan school
POWHATAN POINT — Powhatan Point Elementary School was briefly locked down Thursday after authorities were alerted of an armed man in the area.
Donald Eugene LeMasters, 38, of Powhatan Point was later arrested.
Chief Deputy James Zusack with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement responded immediately.
“There was a person who seen him walking near the school on the roadway with a shotgun. By the time we got there with the State Patrol, Shadyside PD and Powhatan PD, our first concern was the school, so we left some officers there to protect the school, then we went looking for him, found him near his residence in a wooded area. He still had a shotgun. He was taken into custody without incident,” Zusack said.
School Principal Rob Caldwell said the lockdown was a matter of procedure.
“It was a precautionary thing. We didn’t even hardly have any buses here yet. A good part of the event took place early in the morning before anybody was even at the building. We were not exactly quite aware of exactly what was going on, whether the suspect was apprehended, so we took precautions. We made sure everything was locked up and when a bus pulled in, we had students, we just rushed them into the … school building,” he said.
“Myself included, a couple of us was just monitoring, walking around all sides of the building just to keep an eye on things, but nothing happened and everything ran smooth,” he said.
Caldwell said many staff were unsure of what the issue was.
“I usually get here around 7:20-7:25 a.m. and it was pretty much done. We had two buses just getting ready to pull in,” he said.
“We saw the police cars and the deputy sheriff’s vehicle. There was only one of them on our premises, but there was a couple rolling up and down Mount Victory Road with their lights on, the road we have to travel to get here. Then we saw the cruisers and lights on. We didn’t know what was going on at first, but they came back and let us know.”
He said about 40 students were in the cafeteria at the time and the school day continued without incident.
“It was normal the entire time. Nothing was ever abnormal,” he said. “The kids that we did have here didn’t know anything about it, just the adults were aware and keeping an eye on things,” he said.
LeMasters was jailed for inducing panic, having a weapon while intoxicated, having a weapon while under disability, child endangering, and he had an outstanding warrant in Monroe County.
Zusack said LeMasters’ condition was likely the reason for his offense.
“He was under the influence of some sort of narcotic, just by the way he was acting. It was very bizarre.”
Two young children were also removed from LeMasters’ residence when he was arrested.
“We knew that he had two small kids, so we went into the house to check on them. The house was in deplorable condition, so we called Children’s Services to respond. They took the kids into their custody,” he said.
Christine Parker, director of Children Services of the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services, said the children are being well cared for.
“We really appreciate the sheriff’s department, and Ohio Highway Patrol also responded very quickly once they received the call and did what they needed to do. Then we met them there to make sure that these kids were safe,” DJFS Director Jeff Felton said. “We just appreciate their involvement in calling us right away so we can go down there and do what we need to do. … “They’re safe and they’re in a good place.”
“They’re placed together,” Parker said.