PEACH VALLEY, Colorado - Garfield District Re-2 imposed a soft lockdown on schools from Rifle to New Castle Thursday morning after a stolen car was found broken down along I-70 a mile and a half from Coal Ridge High School.
"The deputy located it early today and decided to notify the school," said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
The sheriff's department advised a soft lockdown for Coal Ridge, and school district officials extended the lockdown to the entire district, which serves Rifle, Silt and New Castle.
Authorities lifted the lockdown at 12:20 p.m., according to school district spokeswoman Theresa Hamilton.
In a soft lockdown, school officials lock all external doors, and a school staffer checks anyone coming to the front door before admitting them, Hamilton said.
Otherwise, the school day continued as normal, she said, and Thursday's extreme cold temperatures kept students indoors anyway.
The situation started when the sheriff's department was notified of a broken-down vehicle on westbound I-70 at mile 101.5, about a mile and a half from the high school.
The caller reported seeing a man walking away from the vehicle wrapped in a blanket.
Deputies were unable to find a man on foot, but did find the vehicle, a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am GT, and soon learned that it was reported stolen in Osage County, Mo.
At that point, the sheriff's department alerted the Coal Ridge school resource officer, and authorities locked Coal Ridge as a precaution while the matter was investigated.
Deputies obtained consent from the owner of the Pontiac to search the vehicle, which turned up no weapons or suspicious items, according to a press release issued later Thursday by the sheriff's department.
The occupant of the vehicle was not found Thursday, Vallario said. The car's owner reportedly knew the person who took the car, the sheriff said.
The abandoned vehicle was towed away, Vallario said.
"We feel confident that all the precautions taken [Thursday] were in the best interest of safety for our schools, students and staff," the press release stated. "We are grateful for the communication and cooperation with parents and school administrators."
The sheriff also urged people to "remain vigilant and lock your homes and vehicles. Remove your keys from your cars, keep your eyes open in your neighborhoods, and report anything suspicious. More eyes are better than a few."