Cops: Man enters Lakeland school and assaults principal

Security changes made on campus to ensure safety

LAKELAND, Fla. - It was business as usual Tuesday at Oscar J. Pope Elementary in Lakeland.

But it was a different story at the school a couple of blocks from U.S. 98 Monday morning. Elester Trudell, 42, walked into the school around 7:30 a.m., headed to the front office and punched Principal Qvonda Birdsong, 47, several times, according to Polk County Sheriff's deputies.

But how did a stranger, someone who wasn't even a parent of a student inside, make his way through the building? 

Principal Birdsong says Trudell walked into a door near the main entrance which is usually open for about 45 minutes every morning so teachers can enter.  That door now locked at all times, according to Birdsong.

Birdsong also says Trudell was a student at Pope Elementary decades ago.  Perhaps that was the reason why he knew his way around the campus.

Parents we spoke with Tuesday morning said they were anxious and scared to send their kids into the school after learning about what happened Monday through a robo call sent out that evening around 7:00. 

"I was scared," said Debra Kabler.  "I didn't know what was going on."

Kabler has two children who attend Pope Elementary.  She says one of her biggest issues with yesterday's incident was that she didn't receive an automated phone call from the district until that night.  Birdsong said she and the district decided to send that message out at a time they thought most parents would be home.

Perhaps no one was worried or as scared though as Anna Williams.  She said she came in direct contact with Trudell yesterday right before he went into the school.  She said she saw him screaming and cursing at a young boy so she walked over to see what the issue was.

"He like bowed up and then he chest bumped me," Williams says.  "I had my daughter behind me back just letting him yell at me so he wouldn't do anything to the kids."

She says once Trudell walked off, she called 9-1-,1 and soon after, Polk County Deputies were at the school

Birdsong said aside from a little soreness, the worst part of yesterday's attack is today's uneasiness.  He assures parents the students of Oscar J. Pope Elementary are safe.

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