The Lillie B. Haynes and East Lyme Middle Schools were locked down for nearly three hours and the East Lyme Public Library was closed while police searched for a man who they say was driving erratically on Monday morning.
Thomas Schmidt, 30, was arrested following the chase, which bought out police ATVs and K-9s and ended around 11:30 a.m. in the area of exit 73 off Interstate 95.
Police said Schmidt has been in jail most of his adult life on armed robbery and burglary convictions. He's also facing larceny and drug possession charges with state police.
He's charged with third-degree larceny, possession of narcotics, possession of marijuana and driving without a license.
According to state police, Schmidt led troopers on a half-mile-long car chase starting around 8:30 a.m. near exit 71 off I-95 in Old Lyme.
Schmidt later abandoned the car on the highway, and a witness said she saw police lead him out of the woods behind the school bus trailer, a portable office near the bus lot where drivers clock in and out.
The school lockdowns remained in effect throughout the search and were lifted upon Schmidt's arrest. The buildings are used for summer programs in East Lyme, which were in session during the lockdowns.
"Staff that was there knew exactly what they needed to do, so as soon as we got the call from the police at about a quarter-to-nine, we locked down both buildings and they remained in lockdown mode until 11:30 when police gave us the all clear," said East Lyme school Supt. Jim Lombardo.
According to Lombardo, I-95 is a common cut-through for bank robbers, and the school system often deals with lockdowns while police seek out suspects.
"We have regular fire drills like all of us kids remember, but we also have lockdown drills as well," Lombardo said, "two or three of those a year in each one of our school buildings, so our staffs are very well prepared for our procedures."
The Facebook page for the East Lyme Library says the library and community center were also closed during the manhunt. The library is waiving all fines.
Schmidt's bond was set at $100,000. Since East Lyme has no holding cell at its police department, he was taken into the custody of state police.
Police have not released any information about a possible motive.