Masked men spur manhunt
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:25 PM
"Olympic View Elementary School was locked down Wednesday morning after a student looked out a window and spotted a man in a ski mask in the nearby woods, the Oak Harbor Police reported. Minutes earlier, a resident of a nearby apartment reported to 911 that he had caught two masked men burglarizing his home. He said he fought with one of the men and was cut with a box cutter before the two men escaped out the back door - towards the elementary school. A large and immediate law enforcement response failed to find anyone, however, and police still did not have any suspects in the case as of Friday. City police officers, deputies from the Island County Sheriff's Department and Navy Security quickly surrounded the school and adjacent woods Wednesday, just moments after the school reported the masked man. Officers patrolled from Regatta Drive to Torpedo Road. An officer standing on Regatta armed with an assault rifle drew attention from passing cars and questions from residents. Soon, helicopters from Seattle television stations were circling over the schools. TV, radio and newspaper reporters inundated the police department with calls. But a police dog search of the woods didn't turn up any men in ski masks, or anyone else. After an hour and a half, the school was reopened and pre-schoolers were allowed to go home. Oak Harbor Police Chief Tony Barge said the school lock-down and the big police response was meant to keep the school children safe. While a home invasion burglary is a serious crime, Barge said it wouldn't have warranted such a large police operation if it wasn't so near the school. Navy Public Affairs Officer Sarah McGruder said that the resident of the Navy's Lark Street Apartment is a 19-year-old man married to a Navy woman. He reportedly walked out of the shower into the living room and came upon two men wearing dark-colored ski masks. One of the men was holding a stereo speaker. Oak Harbor Police Detective Jerry Baker said the resident wrestled with one of the burglars, who was apparently armed with a box cutter. The burglar cut the resident in the arm and ran out the back door with the other burglar. The resident suffered only a minor wound, Baker said, and was later treated by a medic at the scene. Nita Rouw, the principal's secretary at Olympic View, said that a boy in a classroom saw a person in a ski mask go into the woods on the east side of the building. The boy told a teacher, the teacher told Principal Joyce Swanson, and Swanson called the police. The police asked Swanson to enforce an emergency lock-down at the school. Rouw said Swanson got on the intercom and told teachers to lock the classroom doors, pull down the shades and continue classes as usual. Rouw said everyone, including the students, acted very calmly. Afterward, Swanson went back on the intercom and gave a report on what happened. Oak Harbor Police Captain Rick Wallace said an officer attempted to track the men in ski masks with a police dog. He said the dog picked up a scent, but it did not lead to a suspect. Barge said Friday the investigators had no new leads in the case."