COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The lockdown at Southeastern Community College has been lifted after an attempted robbery and assault were reported on campus Thursday morning.
According to Liz McLean with SCC, the college went into lockdown while law enforcement officers conducted a sweep of the campus.
Officials said that 25-30 law enforcement officers with the Columbus County Sheriff's Office, Chadbourn Police Department, State Highway Patrol and the SBI went building to building searching for a male suspect.
The lockdown was lifted around 12:45 p.m., almost three hours after it started. Law enforcement is still searching for the suspect.
The incident reportedly took place in the building where the school's print shop is located. The victim, a female employee at the school, was taken to the hospital where detectives spoke with her to gather information.
According to a Thursday night news release from the Columbus County Sheriff's Office, the suspect, a black male with short dreadlocks wearing a black hoodie, demanded money from the victim and when she said she didn't have cash, he assaulted her.
The victim fought back and the suspect fled on foot.
Students said they normally feel safe at SCC, and Thursday's incident was a shock.
"I never expected something like this to happen to a very small college, very local so it's pretty frightful that it happened so close to home," student Ethan Noble said.
According to SCC President Anthony Clarke, the college conducted one of two annual lockdown drills on Tuesday.
"We had faculty, staff and students do what they were supposed to do and we are very proud of them," Clarke said. "Everyone remained safe while the law enforcement authorities did their clearing operation for campus."
A message initially came over the speakers at the school saying it was on lockdown. It also was announced through a phone system. Phones are in every classroom on campus.
According to Clarke, faculty and students then made sure the rooms were locked, the lights were turned off and that no one talked. Building captains then went around to every room to make sure everyone was following procedures.
SCC leaders sent updates through their website and to students' and employees' phones during the incident.
According to Clarke, even though they think Thursday's response went smoothly, school leaders will review how it went and see how they can improve.
"I'm sure we'll get feedback from our faculty and staff and students about what worked and what didn't work," Clarke said. "If they felt safe or not, if there are some things that we could improve. We're always looking for that."
SCC officials initially reported there was a possible sexual assault. The sheriff's office later confirmed a physical assault occurred.
A man who was taken into custody this morning is not considered a suspect in the incident. He was detained on possible drug charges.
Clarke released the following statement on Facebook regarding Thursday morning's incident: