A "lockout" was imposed Thursday on the four schools on the Lewiston-Porter campus as several police agencies pursued a burglar surprised by a homeowner during a late-morning entry.
Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said he chose to "lock out" visitors to Lewiston-Porter High School and Middle School, as well as North and South elementary schools -- all located near each other along Creek Road -- after the district was told at about11 a.m. that police were seeking a suspect in a break-in.
Lee W. Gates, 36, of 23rd Street, Niagara Falls, fled after a foiled burglary at a home in the 3400 block of Creek Road, Porter, just north of the school campus and the Lewiston town line, Niagara County sheriff's deputies said.
"Everything went well," Roser said. " 'Lockout' is [almost] the same thing as a lockdown. No one can enter or leave, but everyone can go to classes and lunch. In a lockdown, students stay in their rooms because there is an imminent threat of bodily harm to students."
The schools have the added safety of having the Lewiston Police Department on the campus, Roser said.
He said he did not send out an automated call to parents when the schools were closed, but posted a notice on the school website and planned to send out a "robo call" to all parents Thursday evening.
"From past experience, when parents receive the call, a lot want to come to the school and pick their children up, which really is more dangerous. We really do have a secure facility and have a good police presence right out front," Roser said. "I don't blame anyone [for being concerned], but it's safer inside."
As the campus schools locked out visitors, several police agencies pursued the burglary suspect.
At 10:50 a.m., a Creek Road resident called to report a stranger in his basement, deputies said. The caller said he confronted the intruder and the man fled.
Chief Sheriff's Deputy Steven C. Preisch said police officials contacted school officials because of the proximity to the crime.
"There was no weapon involved," Preisch said. "If there had been been, it would have been a much more serious charge. Things just escalated."
State police and the U.S. Border Patrol aided Lewiston police and sheriff's deputies in the search.
A Border Patrol helicopter located Gates in a field off Creek Road, near Cain Road, after a nearby resident called authorities, Preisch said.
The entire search lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
Gates was charged with second-degree burglary and third-degree criminal mischief, and was held pending arraignment in Porter Town Court.