Arlington

Man Charged After Trying to Break In to Virginia School During Lockdown: Police

Alexander Sentayhu was charged with destruction of public property at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Police said the incident could have ended in tragedy if he had been "perceived as an active threat"

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A man faces charges after police say he tried to break in to a middle school in Arlington, Virginia, during a lockdown out of apparent concern for family members inside. 

Alexander Sentayhu, 25, of Alexandria, was charged with destruction of public property after the incident at Thomas Jefferson Middle School on Friday, Arlington police said Monday. A shattered glass door could be seen.

The incident occurred less that three weeks after the Uvalde school massacre, during which terrified parents tried to rescue their own children and begged officers to go into the building sooner

Thomas Jefferson Middle School was locked down on Friday afternoon as police investigated a crime reported at a 7-Eleven around the corner, in the 200 block of S. Glebe Road. Police say a man bought items, grabbed additional items without paying and swung a hammer at a store employee who confronted him. He cracked a glass display case with the hammer and struggled with police, who arrived at about 12:20 p.m. and used a Taser on him, the department said. 

“In the interest of public safety, responding officers requested Thomas Jefferson Middle School be placed on a secure status due to its proximity to the business,” police said in a statement. 

Sentayhu learned of the lockdown and rushed to the school, police said. 

“The preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect received text messages from his relatives who are students at the school indicating that a lockdown was occurring, and that he had responded possibly believing that there was an active incident occurring within the school,” police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told News4.

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When Sentayhu arrived, he found that the school was locked. 

“He did contact the Emergency Communications Center indicating that he was armed and that he wanted to gain access to the school,” Savage said. “He subsequently kicked the door to the school, causing the glass pane to break and attempted to continue to open the door but was ultimately unsuccessful.” 

No one was hurt, but broken glass was left behind. The door had more than $1,000 in damage, online court records say. 

Sentayhu left the school before officers arrived, police said. Information was not released on whether he had a weapon, as he had told authorities by phone. 

The school’s principal wrote a message to families about what happened. 

“Today was unsettling and traumatic for students and staff, as well as our families. The safety of our students and staff remains our priority,” Principal K. Boggan wrote. 

An unidentified individual attempting to force entry into a locked school could be perceived as an active threat

Arlington County Police Department

The school was locked down for about 20 minutes, moved to "secure the building" status and was back to normal status “shortly thereafter,” the principal wrote.

Sentayhu turned himself in to police that night and was released on unsecured bond. Online court records did not list a lawyer. Sentayhu is due in court on Wednesday. 

Police say the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible. 

Arlington police asked residents to let officers respond to reported crimes, noting that the incident at the school could have had a “tragic outcome.” 

“An unidentified individual attempting to force entry into a locked school could be perceived as an active threat,” the department’s statement said. 

“While we understand the community’s concerns, we must stress that it is law enforcement who will respond to the incident,” Savage added. 

Anyone with relevant information is asked to contact police.

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