BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) – Several students remained home Thursday after the sheriff’s office reported three suspicious men entering two elementary schools in Carteret County on Wednesday.
24 percent of the students at White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret, where one of the incidents happened, stayed home. And another 19 percent of students at Bogue Sound Elementary School in Newport were also absent.
Those three men seen entering two Carteret County schools were later identified as belonging to the 83rd Civil Affairs Group out of Fort Bragg, which issued a statement about the incident apologizing for the angst caused to the community.
Sheriff Asa Buck told 9 On Your Side the men were reportedly conducting a survey. Buck said Fort Bragg was contacted by Carteret County’s Emergency Management and the Sheriff’s Office about the surveys. Buck believes they might not have known about the survey.
He said these types of surveys aren’t uncommon in Carteret County. However, normally the local authorities are notified. This time, they weren’t.
“Those things are coordinated with us, even going around doing these types of surveys and asking questions,” Buck said. “You know 99.9% of the time we always get some sort of heads up.”
The Civil Affairs unit was conducting a one-day exercise. The group is responsible for gathering intelligence in preparation for major disasters including military incidents, hurricane and flooding disasters, and locating food banks and shelter locations.
The three men were located at the Cedar Point Campground after getting numerous tips from the community. At that time, county deputies, along with the FBI and NCIS, questioned the suspects. The sheriff’s office said the three soldiers took it upon themselves to go to schools, and weren’t authorized to do so. They also said the men didn’t mean to cause such a scare and were acting with good intentions.
Buck said all county schools require someone to be buzzed in to get access.
The school system released a statement saying, “The Carteret County Public School System takes the security of our campuses very seriously. We appreciate the response and support of law enforcement.”
The Carteret County Sheriff’s Office is on alert after three men walked into two elementary schools asking bizarre questions Wednesday.
The Sheriff’s Office said it happened at White Oak Elementary and Bogue Sound Elementary schools just after noon on Wednesday. The men asked school officials whether the schools were designated as crisis evacuation centers.
After school officials requested identification, the men presented ID’s that appeared to be from the military, and said they were representing Fort Bragg. However, after calling surrounding military installations, the sheriff’s office reported no one doing these exercises or security tests in Carteret County.
The Sheriff’s Office gave the following suspect descriptions: “Subject one is identified as a white male, 6’0”, thin build, dark hair wearing a long sleeve green stripped polo shirt and blue jeans. Subject two is described as a light skinned non-caucasian male, 5’8”, thin build, dark hair wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans. Subject three is identified as a light skinned non-caucasian male, 5’8”, medium build, dark hair wearing an orange plaid shirt and khaki pants. All three subjects were wearing Merrell type hiking boots and were in their mid-20s in age. The subjects were last seen operating a newer model small 4-door hatchback crossover vehicle (possibly a Toyota Rav-4 or Dodge Journey). The vehicle was described as silver in color and bearing out of state tags (possibly Washington DC area) the vehicle was last seen around 1:00 pm on Highway 24. Their direction of travel is unknown.”
All schools and law enforcement agencies with schools in their jurisdiction were notified of the activity. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office at 252-726-1911.