Students secretly moved to another school for safety

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Elephant’s Fork Elementary School in Suffolk spent most of Monday on lockdown as State Police tried to issue a warrant nearby. Police say the suspect appears to have killed himself before the arrest could be made.

Sgt. Michelle Anaya with the Virginia State Police said the school was placed on lockdown just after 9 a.m. as a precaution. When State Police attempted to serve the warrants at a home across the street from the school, the subject refused to come out.

School spokesperson Bethanne Bradshaw said units blocked the entrance to the school and moved the office staff and classrooms at the front of the building to the gym. She said students and staff were all safe.

The following message was sent to Elephant’s Fork parents at 10:30 a.m.:

This is principal Andre Skinner at Elephant’s Fork Elementary. Because of a situation across the street, the police have blocked entrance to the school, and the school is currently in lockdown. Your child is safe and will remain in their classroom until the police give clearance. It is not necessary to call the school, and you will not be able to come to the school.  I will call you again once the incident is resolved.

Around 12:45 p.m. State Police arranged for all students and staff to leave the school by bus. They exited the back of the building and were taken to King’s Fork High School. The school did not notify parents about the evacuation until it was complete. Principal Skinner said State Police asked not to publicize the move as to not compromise security.

Virginia State Police Tactical Unit awaiting the entrance of the robot. (Photo by VSP)
Virginia State Police Tactical Unit awaiting the entrance of the robot. (Photo by VSP)

Once notified, parents were told they could pick up their children from King’s Fork or students could take a school bus home.

After the elementary school was evacuated, VSP’s Tactical Team secured the perimeter of the residence and a robot was used to go inside. Through the robot, police learned the suspect was dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Anaya said an autopsy will be conducted by the Medical Examiner to determine the exact cause of death.

The suspect has been identified as 52-year-old Gary Abernathy of Suffolk. He was to be served warrants for obtaining money by false pretense and arson.

Click here to read the principal’s letter to parents and guardians.

Stay with WAVY News 10 on air and online for updates.

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