COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A former Columbia firefighter, previously terminated by the city is in trouble again, this time for allegedly bringing a weapon into a Columbia high school.
That former firefighter is Roy Brooks, who was recently indicted by a Maury County Grand Jury and charged with carrying a weapon onto school property.
It’s a case that actually began three months earlier on May 3, when Maury County 911 received a call of an active shooter in a Columbia high school just after 11 a.m.
The call was quickly determined to be a hoax, possibly a call generated by artificial intelligence, but it still caused panic and prompted a massive response from SWAT teams.
Investigators said the cryptic and frightening call sounded like it came from a man who had a strong accent and appeared to be whispering as if he was hiding in a classroom where a shooter has opened fire on students.
“Hello. There’s a shooter inside the high school. He shot six students inside the classroom at Columbia Central High school…he shot six students inside the classroom,” the call said.
SWAT units quickly went to the scene and swept the school building before the call was determined to be a hoax.
According to multiple sources, while SWAT teams were responding, Roy Brooks also arrived. The 48-year-old reportedly put on a tactical vest and had an AR-15 rifle with him. He joined the SWAT team entering the school.
Multiple sources confirmed Brooks had prior law enforcement experience, some as a SWAT medic, but Brooks was not currently a law enforcement officer.
Sources also confirmed Brooks had a long career with the Columbia Fire Department, but was terminated prior to the incident at the school.
Maury County District 8 Commissioner Gabe Howard was shocked when News 2 played the 911 call.
“It is frightening. The couple of things I picked up on were six students shot,” Howard said.
Howard told News 2 he didn’t know Brooks, but he has been following this case and its repercussions.
“I believe the response that day was absolutely incredible. I think it should be applauded. I think the only statement I will make regarding Mr. Brooks is that I do believe in my heart, his heart was in the right place. When he showed up that day, I believe he was trying to offer his service. For every reaction, there is a reaction and a response to what he did,” Brooks said.
The reaction to what Brooks allegedly did was a criminal indictment and an arrest last week.
News 2’s Andy Cordan reached out to Brooks by phone. He answered, declined to comment, and referred Cordan to his attorney.
Brooks is currently out of jail on bond.
In the wake of the arrest, the principal at Columbia Central High School, Dr. Michael Steele, was suspended for protesting to the school superintendent how the information has been disseminated to him and parents.
UPDATE: In early September, Dr. Michael Steele confirmed with News 2 that he had been reinstated as the principal of Columbia Central High School.
“I think the lack of transparency is really the problem here,” Howard said.
According to Howard, Steele was upset that Maury County Superintendent Lisa Ventura knew that an armed civilian — Brooks — entered the high school, but the school system never informed the principal, who had to hear it from a concerned resident three months later.
“What is most troubling is the lack of transparency, the lack of communication by the Director of Schools Lisa Ventura,” Howard said.
School officials would not go on camera or talk about personnel issues, but they did issue the following statement to News 2:
On May 3, Maury County Public Schools received a call of an active shooter on the campus of Central High School. The Maury County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Columbia Police Department responded to the call. The response was immediate and applauded. Upon assessing the scene, the threat was deemed by officials to be invalid and resulted from a “robocall.” Once local law enforcement authorities cleared the scene and deemed the campus safe, Central High School returned to business as normal.
One week later, on May 9, Maury County Schools received an allegation that one of the armed responders at the active shooter incident was not employed by either of the responding authorities and questioned that individual’s presence on campus during the incident.
Superintendent Ventura notified the Maury County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Columbia Police Department of the allegations. Subsequently, Maury County Public Schools turned its surveillance footage over to the District Attorney’s Office to investigate whether a crime had been committed. Maury County Schools took no further action as there was a continuing investigation by local law enforcement and no immediate threat to school safety.
Maury County Schools is committed to providing a safe environment for the students, faculty, and community, especially within our schools and campuses. Policies, procedures, and safety measures are continuously being evaluated. We are thankful for our partnership with the local law enforcement officials.
It is the policy of the Maury County Public Schools not to discuss personnel matters.
“[Ventura] kept her own school board in the dark. Her stance has been she did not want to create mass hysteria. I think the lack of communication and transparency has caused exactly that,” Howard added.