Suspect charged with kidnapping Chelsea Middle School students

Published: Feb. 13, 2013 at 9:16 PM CST|Updated: Jul. 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM CDT
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Ryan Matthew Sims. Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Office
Ryan Matthew Sims. Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Office
Law enforcement responds to the lockdown at Chelsea Middle School. Source: Jonathan Hardison
Law enforcement responds to the lockdown at Chelsea Middle School. Source: Jonathan Hardison

CHELSEA, AL (WBRC) - Shelby County authorities have arrested a 21-year-old man on kidnapping charges for holding five female Chelsea Middle School students hostage at the school.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office named the suspect as Ryan Matthew Sims, from Chelsea. He was a former Chelsea Middle School student and a former part-time summer employee who was well-known to staff.

Officials say Sims came into the school through the front door and exchanged pleasantries with the office staff members. At some point, he made his way to the gym and into the girls locker room, where authorities say he started waving around a handgun.

Chelsea Middle School went on lockdown around 3 p.m. Tuesday after a gunman was reported at the school. A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy assigned to protect the middle school in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shootings moved from the front entrance of the school to where the gunman had been seen.

The deputy and the school's principal confronted Sims and found out he was "holding five female students against their will in the girls locker room," the Sheriff's Office stated in their most recent news release.

The deputy and the principal were able to talk Sims into releasing the middle school girls and surrendering himself to authorities without any violence. Officials say the negotiations took around 20 minutes.

Sims was then taken to the Shelby County Jail, where he is still being held on a bond totaling more than $5 million.

Investigators obtained six warrants against Sims on Wednesday morning: five warrants for first degree kidnapping and one warrant for terrorist threats.

In a release, Sheriff Chris Curry thanked federal law enforcement, Hoover Police, Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies and Chelsea's Mayor Earl Nivens for their help in the situation.

"Sheriff Curry has re-affirmed his commitment to place a deputy in each of the Shelby County schools where the Sheriff's Office has primary jurisdiction," the news release stated.

Shelby County spokesperson Cindy Warner said today that no one at the school raised alarm when Sims showed up yesterday because he was well-known by the staff.

"I would say it definitely lended itself to the fact that he was a very familiar face.  There certainly was no reason for anybody to have felt fearful of him because he was very familiar with the school, he had worked numerous summers at the school," Warner said.

Four deputies were at the school on Wednesday, and the Sheriff's Office says deputies will continue to be present at the school while students are there to ensure their safety.

A motive for the kidnapping has not been released.

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