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Gunman triggers school lockdowns

Two west The Dalles schools were briefly placed on lockdown Friday morning after a disturbance allegedly involving an armed man.

Wasco County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to 1061 Irvine St. at about 8 a.m. on a report of a disturbance. While en route to the area, deputies learned that Dennis Hester Jr., a well-known repeat offender in The Dalles, had a verbal altercation with the residents at the address, according to information from Chief Dep. Lane Magill. Upon leaving, the residents said Hester discharged a firearm near the house.

Hester then fled on foot.

The residence is in close proximity to Chenowith Elementary and Wahtonka schools. Based on the severity of the incident, both schools were notified and immediately implemented lockdown procedures.

“We got the process going to lock them down and just as we were doing that we apprehended him,” Magill said.

County deputies and Oregon State Police troopers apprehended Hester in the 700 block of Hostetler Street at 8:18 a.m.

Investigation into the incident indicates Hester disposed of the firearm while fleeing, Magill said. Deputies and troopers searched the area but were unable to locate it.

Magill warned anyone who may find the firearm not to touch it. Instead, they should immediately call the Wasco County sheriff’s office.

Candy Armstrong, superintendent of North Wasco County School District 21, said the lockdown went according to plans. The staff was debriefed later that afternoon, she said.

“From everything I’ve heard from folks, everything went really well,” Armstrong said. “We’re very pleased. “

Building administrators followed district guidelines found in the crisis management plan and at no time were any students or staff members in any immediate danger, a statement from the district said. Lockdowns are used in the event of an unsafe situation where law enforcement has requested the school secure all classrooms by locking doors, closing windows and shades and turning off lights until the area has been officially cleared and is safe again.

Hester is lodged at the regional jail on charges of disorderly conduct and being a felon in possession of a weapon.

Anyone with further information on the incident is asked to call the Wasco County sheriff’s office at 541-506-2580.

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