‘Random’ driver shot and killed after crashing van on Florida art school campus – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — South Florida police shot and killed an “erratic violent suspect” who crashed at the gates of an art school on Friday, authorities said.

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Update at 7:52 a.m. EDT May 14: The driver was identified Friday night as Romen Phelps, 33, of Palm Beach Gardens, the Sun-Sentinel reported, citing a statement from the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Original report: The incident began around 12 a.m. EDT, when authorities received calls about a man driving a van erratically the wrong way near the campus of the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in downtown West Palm. Beach, WPTV reported.

Police say the driver went through the locked school gates and hit a palm tree, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The driver also narrowly missed hitting a maintenance worker who was driving a golf cart to school, according to the newspaper.

Police said the man ran into Building 7, which houses the school’s auditorium, and confronted officers and school staff, WPEC-TV reported.

“At that time, there was a struggle,” West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles told a news conference. “There was some sort of fight that ensued between the officer, school staff and the suspect. A West Palm Beach police officer discharged his weapon, striking the suspect.

Building 7 includes an auditorium in the front and classrooms in the back, the Sun-Sentinel reported. No students were in the auditorium, but they were in other parts of the building, Jachles said.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene, WPTV reported. His name and the identity of the officer who fired the fatal shot have not been released.

Students and staff members remained safe but under lockdown, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A staggered layoff plan was in effect, according to the Palm Beach County School District.

“I’ve been visiting with the students and everyone is calm and collected at this point,” Palm Beach County School District Superintendent Michael Burke told The Sun-Sentinel.

It is unclear why West Palm Beach police officers were following the van driver and why the person was shot, according to the newspaper. Jachles said he did not know how many shots were fired or whether the man had a weapon.

“But what I can tell you is that an intruder on a school campus crashing through doors, running around an active school campus and acting erratically will be dealt with appropriately,” a Jachles told reporters.

Kayleen C. Rice