By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — Children are back in school after the holiday break, and that means police are back to patrolling bus routes across the city.
Police officials said cruisers and unmarked cars are patrolling routes of all buses that carry students in Haverhill. They include not only Haverhill High and Head Start buses which were the targets of BB-gun shooters Dec. 20, but also buses carrying students who attend private schools and Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High.
As of yesterday, police said they have resumed following school buses during both the morning and afternoon bus routes. They said their goal is to deter any further BB shootings and to catch someone in the act.
"All bus routes are equally important," police Lt. Robert Pistone said. "I don't think whoever did this discerned between a Whittier Tech bus or a Haverhill High bus. They just shot at a school bus."
Investigators have determined the kind of gun the BBs were shot from.
"It does look like BBs were shot probably from a high-powered gun, whether spring loaded or CO2 powered, as they (the BBs) did go right through the windows," Pistone said. "We have enough routes covered and if it occurs again we'll be in close proximity and hopefully catch them."
Pistone said there is daily communication between the school superintendent's office and the police chief, and that the patrols will continue for an undisclosed period of time.
"At this time the investigation is still open and we urge anyone with information to come forward," Pistone said.
Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to contact police at 978-373-1212. You can also leave a message on the police anonymous tip line by dialing 978-373-1212 and following the prompts.
The police patrols come in the wake of the Dec. 20 incidents in which two school buses were shot with what police said were BBs. They broke a passenger window on each bus and sprayed pieces of glass onto students.
The first incident happened on a Head Start bus about 11:30 a.m. in the area of Main and Marshland streets. John Cuneo, director of Community Action Inc. which runs the Head Start program in Haverhill, said about 35 children ages 3 and 4 were riding the Coppola company bus and that four or five children were seated close to the window that was shattered. When children arrived at the Fox Head Start Center, they were checked for pieces of glass.
The second incident happened about 2:30 p.m. the same day, when a school bus bringing home students from Haverhill High School was shot as it was traveling up Winter Street and passing by Hale Street. One student sustained a small cut to her knuckle when brushing off pieces of glass that fell onto her, police said. Police stressed that students could have received serious injuries and someone could have been shot in the eye or the head.
The school bus shootings in Haverhill occurred six days after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 young children and six adults were shot and killed by a 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The closeness of the incidents outraged Haverhill police and school officials.