By Jackie Hajdenber
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Police in Memphis shot a man on Monday who they said attempted to attack a Jewish day school there.
The incident occurred around noon at
, an Orthodox school on the city’s east side. A man fired shots outside the school but failed to gain entry and left the scene. He was shot after police approached him nearby, Memphis police and Jewish security officials said.
The suspect was a member of the Jewish community and the incident appeared personal in nature, according to a spokesperson for the Secure Community Network, an organization that coordinates security for Jewish institutions nationwide.
According to Michael Masters, CEO of the Secure Community Network, the suspect was a man in his 40s who tried to enter the school but was prevented from doing so due to a security system. The school’s closed-circuit TV system captured images of the man which were shared with the police, Masters’ organization said.
Masters said the man was killed after being shot by a police officer. The Memphis Police Department said on Monday afternoon that the man was transported to a hospital in critical condition.
Margolin Hebrew Academy, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through high school, sent an alert to its community.
“Please, be advised that we are currently in a developing active shooter situation. We can confirm that no one has been hurt in any way, and everyone is now safe, thank G-d,” the alert said, according to Fox13, a local station. “Please look out for further communication with additional information to come. In the meantime, our campus is completely closed. We thank you for your understanding. May we all continue to merit Hashem’s protection.”
The school declined to provide additional comment to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The day school is still on summer break, with the first day of classes for all students set for Aug. 17. But there were school personnel including construction workers present during the shooting, and the building immediately went into lockdown, according to Masters. All schools in the Memphis-Shelby County Schools district were also put on a precautionary lockdown, which was lifted at 2 p.m.
“He had made statements that he was targeting the facility for a specific reason,” said Masters, who added that the suspect was a “known offender.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, a Jewish congressman whose district includes Memphis, announced late Monday that his office had learned that the alleged shooter was a former student at Margolin Hebrew Academy. Cohen had previously expressed concern that the shooting was a possible hate crime.
An executive at Jewish Community Partners, the local Jewish federation, told JTA that the federation has worked for years with Masters’ organization. The federation has worked to help local Jewish institutions set security policies and access government grants meant to make facilities more secure.
“This is a testament to the Federation, the community in Memphis, taking a comprehensive approach to security that ensures the protection of the whole community,” Masters said. “It’s another reminder that we’re not going to choose the time and place of the next incident but we can choose our preparation, and today that preparation paid off.”
Police officials, too, said during a press conference that the school’s security system had averted tragedy.
“Thankfully, that school had a great safety procedure and process in place and avoided anyone being harmed or injured at that scene,” said Dan Crow, an assistant police chief.