Reports of a man dressed in all black and wielding a gun that looked like an assault rifle led to a manhunt in North Newton Tuesday, one that had police officers tense and grateful it ended with a young man and his mother sitting in the North Newton Police Department offices.
The man turned out to be a juvenile, and the weapon a BB gun that looked like an assault rifle.
At about 8:30 a.m. 911 dispatchers paged North Newton Police to respond to the Sand Creek Trail entrance located just north of the science building on the campus of Bethel College. Callers had identified a man carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.
"From a distance, we would not have known, had he turned it on us or accidentally pointed it at us," sand Randy Jordan, North Newton Chief of Police. "... We would not have known if it was a BB gun. It was a pretty dangerous situation for a lot of us."
North Newton police, a Harvey County Sheriff's deputy and a member of the Newton Police Department all responded and began searching for the teen in the area of the Sand Creek Trail. The search lasted about an hour.
"There were people who were truly panicked," Jordan said. "They believed he had an assault rifle. ... As officers were walking the trail, we were all saying 'please God, don't put me in a situation where I may have to shoot.'"
The juvenile from North Newton later seen entering his home. The juvenile and his mother voluntarily went to the North Newton Police Department offices in North Newton City Hall when they learned of the search.
The juvenile, whose name is not being released, told walkers along the trail he was searching for a 7-foot tall, 500-pound creature he had seen along the trail. Callers to 911 told dispatchers and officers while they thought what he was carrying could be a BB gun, it was a very realistic looking and looked like an assault rifle.
The juvenile, dressed in all black, had been sighted earlier in the day near Kauffman Museum, which is also on the trail system in North Newton that goes past the Bethel College football stadium, MCC Central States and the Bethel College Community Gardens and through a portion of the college campus including the Thresher National Disc Golf Course.
"It was tense," Jordan said. " ... We had people not only calling 911 but as we were gearing up to go out there, I had people coming to city hall who were in tears, they were so scared. It alarmed a lot of people. ... It is not illegal, really, to be walking around with a gun. But the thing is, it sends up red flags to a lot of people. It is unfortunate, but people are scared."