A man working with a chainsaw Wednesday near the Ellenville Central School campus was mistaken for a person with an assault rifle, causing a lockdown of the schools, police said.
The incident took place around 10:30 a.m. when a retired New York State corrections officers reported to police that while driving north on Route 209 over the bridge by Spring Street, he noticed a white male in dark clothing carrying what he believed was an assault rifle, said Ellenville Police Chief Philip Mattracion.
The man told police he believed the man was walking under the bridge and heading in the direction of the school campus, the chief said.
Out of an abundance of caution, police contacted the Ellenville Central School District and asked them to institute a lockdown until the department could make sure the students and faculty were not in danger, Mattracion said.
Ellenville police, assisted by the New York State Police, the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, and the Town of Shawangunk Police Department, then conducted a thorough search of the school grounds and the surrounding area, he added.
After the search, it was determined that the man seen was a local worker carrying a chainsaw, and he was working to clear brush from under the bridge area, the sheriff said.
The lockdown was lifted around 12:10 p.m., about two hours after the first report.
"We take reports and potential threats of this nature extremely serious," Mattracion said. "In any case of this nature we are going to err on the side of extreme caution, and thoroughly exhaust all investigative tools to ensure that all of our children and staff members alike are safe while they are in attendance at our local schools."
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