EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 12, 2014

Violence forces city schools into lockdown

Shooting, arrests cause move to protect students

By Sara Brown
sbrown@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE ­— A city school was briefly put on lockdown yesterday after a man tried to approach the school with a gun.

The Rollins School, at 451 Howard St., was placed on lockdown, but all students and staff were reported safe, said police Chief James Fitzpatrick.

It all started when a Rollins School employee thought he saw a home invasion in a building near the school and called police to report it.

When officers arrived at the house, they said they found a man packaging illegal drugs. The man released a pit bull on the officers, who shot and killed the dog, police said.

The man said he was just visiting friends and instead of going through the front door, he went through a back window. He was charged with possession with intent to distribute of a class B substance near a school.

When the man’s brother, who was also at the house, found out the dog had been killed, he walked toward Rollins School and started yelling in the direction of the school. He was carrying a black handgun, which caused the school lockdown to be ordered, police said.

Rollins School has 170 students in preschool and kindergarten.

The man was arrested by police on the scene before he could reach the school. He was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

“It was an incident that happened next door to us and I put the school on lockdown, like I would in any such situation,” said Principal James O’Keefe. “The children were not in danger at any time.’’

Police said they arrested both men around noon. They would not release any further information about the men.

While all students were safe, the incident did cause distress for some parents of the children.

“I was worried because I didn’t know what was happening,” said Gisel Marcel ,who has a 3-year-old at the school.

“I’d feared the worst,” said Marcel, who was picking up her daughter at 1 p.m. and she saw the police cars blocking the school.

Dinora DeLeon got a call from her sister about the incident and she rushed to the school.

“I was anxious to find out if the children were fine,” DeLeon said.

Mayor Daniel Rivera praised the work of police for dealing with the difficult situation.

“I am grateful to our public safety personnel for their work following occurrences in the city today, which required a coordinated police response at multiple sites and, as a precaution, the lockdown of some nearby schools,’’ the mayor said. “First and foremost, our students, teachers, and residents are safe. The Lawrence Police Department followed protocol at every turn and the afternoon thankfully finished without further incident.’’.

Three other Lawrence schools were also put on lockdown yesterday.

There was a car-jacking and shooting nearby on Melvin Street around the same time police were dealing with the Rollins School incident. Since police found the vehicle in the area, the decision was made to put the Guilmette Elementary and Guilmette Middle, both located at 80 Bodwell St., and the school for Exceptional Studies at the Bruce Annex at 483 Lowell St., on lockdown, said Lawrence Public School spokesman Chris Markuns.

Police said a man’s car was stolen by someone who shot him and forced him out of the vehicle. Police recovered a gun on Melvin Street. The shooter remains at large, police said. They said they believe the incident was drug related. The victim was taken to Lawrence General Hospital and is believed to be in stable condition, police said.

State Police assisted Lawrence police in both incidents.

Reporters Yadira Betances and Jill Harmacinski contributed to this report.

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