SALEM - City police charged a 26-year-old man with criminal trespass after he entered Salem High School Tuesday morning and fled after being questioned why he was there.
Mark E. Knight Jr., whose last known address was Jennings Avenue, was taken into custody without incident after police found him near Third Street and Rose Avenue. School staff members had followed him and wanted him charged.
Police were called to the school at 8:03 a.m. for a suspicious man who entered the building without permission or authorization. The report said no threats or weapons were involved and no one was at risk during the incident.
"We're not sure what he was doing there," Police Chief J.T. Panezott said.
Panezott's message to people concerning the school was "if you have no business at the school, stay away from it."
He and Patrolman Brad Davis, who handles a lot of juvenile cases for the department and does programs in the schools, both met with school officials recently and talked about school security. School officials routinely talked with Panezott's predecessor to review their security plans and tweak their operations as possible weaknesses were recognized. One recent change after the meeting with Panezott and Davis was to restrict students to two doors for their entry in the mornings to better keep track of who was coming in the building when the doors were open. Doors are normally locked and require a visitor to be buzzed in by school personnel.
SHS Principal Dr. Joe Shivers said Knight apparently entered the school with the students and had been a former student. When asked by Shivers what he was doing, he claimed he was going to the office, which is required of all visitors. Shivers noted that people come to the school for a variety of reasons, such as to get passes for athletic events.
He apparently never went to the office to sign in and walked down to the cafeteria and was allegedly looking for someone. When another school official approached him and asked who he was, he gave a name and took off through a back door.
"He wasn't being truthful. He misrepresented who he was," Shivers said.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org