MOUNT HOREB, Wis. — Witnesses described children fleeing after hearing gunshots near a Wisconsin middle school where authorities said an active shooter was “taken care of” outside the building Wednesday. There were no reported injuries to those inside the school.

For panicked kids and their parents, the incident was terrifying. Parents described children hiding in closets, afraid to communicate on cell phones, and one middle schooler said his class initially fled the school gym on in-line skates.

Authorities in Mount Horeb said without giving details that the “alleged assailant” was harmed, and witnesses described hearing gunshots and seeing dozens of children running.

The district said in several Facebook posts starting around 11:30 a.m. that all district schools were on lockdown. More than four hours later, the district had only announced plans to release elementary schoolers and said remaining students would stay in schools “while the police continue their investigation.”

School buses remained lined up for blocks outside and authorities had used police tape to surround the middle school, the nearby high school and playing fields between the two buildings.

“An initial search of the middle school has not yielded additional suspects,” a post around noon said. “As importantly, we have no reports of individuals being harmed, with the exception of the alleged assailant.”

Earlier, the district posted that “the threat has been taken care of outside of the building” but didn’t elaborate on what had happened at the school in Mount Horeb, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the state capital of Madison.

Jeanne Keller said she heard about five gunshots while in her shop The Quilting Jeanne, just down the block from the campus that includes the middle school.

“It was maybe like pow-pow-pow-pow,” Keller told The Associated Press by phone. “I thought it was fireworks. I went outside and saw all the children running … I probably saw 200 children.”

One middle schooler said his class was in the school gym practicing in-line skating when they heard gunshots.

Max Kelly, 12, said his teacher told the class to get out of the school. He said they skated to a street, ditched their in-line skates and ran to a nearby convenience store and gas station and hid in a bathroom.

Kelly was reunited with his parents and sat on a hillside with them early Wednesday afternoon waiting for his younger siblings to be released from their own schools. He still wore socks, his shoes left behind.

“I don’t think anywhere is safe anymore,” said his mother, 32-year-old Alison Kelly.

Police in Mount Horeb said they could not immediately provide information. A person who answered the phone at the school district office declined comment. The Dane County Sheriff’s office directed reporters to a staging area but had not provided updates hours after the school district first alerted families about the incident.

The district had begun releasing some students of other schools by early afternoon and anxious parents gathered at a bus depot waiting for their kids.

Shannon Hurd, 44, and her former husband, Nathian Hurd, 39, sat in a car waiting for their 13-year-old son, Noah, who was still in the locked-down middle school.

Shannon Hurd said she first heard what happened via a text from Noah saying he loved her. She said she nearly fell down the stairs at her work as she ran to get to the school.

“I just want my kid,” she said. “They’re supposed to be safe at school.”

Stacy Smith, 42, was at the bank Wednesday when she saw police cars rush by and soon got a school district text warning of an active shooter.

She initially could not reach her two children — junior Abbi and seventh-grader Cole. Finally, she reached Abbi by phone but the girl whispered that she was hiding in a closet and couldn’t talk. She eventually connected with both children and learned they were OK.

“Not here,” she said in disbelief. “You hear about this everywhere else but not here.”

Schools nationwide have sought ways to prevent mass shootings inside their walls, from physical security measures and active shooter drills to . Many also rely on teachers and administrators working to detect early signs of student mental health struggles.

The Mount Horeb Area School District’s security protocols were not immediately clear Wednesday and there was no information known about the alleged assailant’s identity or condition.

The village is home to around 7,600 people and the central office of outdoor gear retailer Duluth Trading Company. Mount Horeb markets itself as the “troll capital of the world,” a reference to carvings of trolls stationed throughout its downtown district as a tribute to a Scandinavian gift shop that was a landmark for passing long-haul truckers in the 1970s.

Heidy Lange, owner of Firefly Events Decor & Flowers, said she was in her florist shop about two blocks from the school when she looked out and saw children running and “probably 50 cop cars from everywhere.”

“All of a sudden there was a whole bunch of parents running behind them,” Lange said. “All our phones were beeping with all the alerts. It would devastate the town if something happened to a child here.”


Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit and Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.