Yale Daily News

On Monday morning, the New Haven Police Department received a 911 phone call from a 17-year-old student at Wilbur Cross High School who falsely claimed that a gunman was in the area and had either made or was attempting to make entry into the school.

The call triggered a cascading chain of events, including threats made to seven high schools in the New Haven Public Schools system as well as one other school in New Haven and early dismissal of Wilbur Cross High School at around 11 a.m. Today’s events in New Haven have occurred at the same time as threats were made to Hamden High School, which caused the school to close its doors on Monday and Tuesday. The caller to Wilbur Cross High School has now been arrested and charged with felony breach of peace in the first degree as well as interference with police.  

In addition to the threat against Wilbur Cross, Mayor Justin Elicker said at a Monday press conference that other threats were made on social media toward Hillhouse, Cooperative Arts & Humanities, Riverside, Conte West and Edgewood schools as well as Amistad Academy, a charter school in New Haven not in the NHPS system.  These threats led to partial lockdowns at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School and Hill Regional Career Magnet School. 

“Our Cross School Resource Officer [Officer Miguel Aponte] immediately received the information from dispatch who then notified the principal and put the school in lockdown,” NHPD Acting Chief Renee Dominguez said at the press conference. “From the lockdown, we did have a big police presence to assess what was going on, and once the [Cross early dismissal] decision was made, we were able to carefully make sure that there was no threat that would be leaving the school with the rest of the students and that we were able to get the students safely either onto the bus or to their parents.” 

Elicker told New Haven residents that NHPD as well as other law enforcement agencies have been able to confirm that there are no credible threats at this time against NHPS schools.

Today’s threats follow a similar event which took place in Hamden last week, alongside ongoing threats to Hamden, which have caused Hamden High School to close for Monday and Tuesday of this week, according to Elicker. Elicker made clear that at this time there is not enough information to know for sure if today’s events were a “copycat” event or if there is any linkage.

He added that this was a “traumatic event” for community members, and that NHPD and other law enforcement agencies would work to apprehend the current suspects as well as the perpetrators of any such threats in the future.    

“I want to be clear that when someone makes this kind of threat, it is illegal. You will be arrested, we will find you,” Elicker said. “The police department has been working with our partners in law enforcement, non-stop today to identify the persons that have been involved in these threats.” 

According to Dominguez, the first 911 call was followed up by a post on social media where an individual posted that they would “shoot up Cross.” The same Instagram account then named other NHPS high schools like Hillhouse and Cooperative Arts & Humanities which led NHPD to send resources to these schools to “make sure everyone was safe.” 

Dominguez added that there was a threat emailed to an NHPS school and Instagram posts that made threats against several NHPS schools. These threats are still being investigated with NHPD “issuing search warrants” to identify “where each posting and each email is originating from and getting information for the person who owns that email or phone number or social media handle.”

Dominguez also confirmed that the individual who was responsible for the 911 call has been “apprehended and questioned” by NHPD. She added that another individual who was “responsible for threats against three schools” on Instagram has been identified, but that he resides in another state. She added that he was a juvenile and that law enforcement in his state have been in contact with the individual and that “an arrest warrant is forthcoming” from NHPD.  

“Intel identified the caller and she has been arrested for breach of peace first and interfering [with the police department],” Dominguez said. “She did say that she fabricated the story, her fabrication and the call is what caused the social media posts to begin. The police department has been able to identify one of the individuals who was making those posts for three of the schools.” 

NHPS Assistant Superintendent Paul Whyte ‘93 said at the press conference that the student who had been arrested by NHPD would also be facing action from the school district according to NHPS’s code of conduct. He did not rule out suspension or expulsion. 

Whyte also added that NHPS would be making counseling services available to NHPS community members after this event. He noted that he was inside of Cross when it locked down so he had seen “first hand” the effects of today’s incidents. 

“Because this was such a stressful situation, we are providing social emotional support at Cross, Hillhouse, and all schools that faced threats,” Whyte said. “We want there to be support for our faculty and students to deal with concerns, and we want to recognize the stress that this can cause as well as strengthen our kids to continue their education. It’s a tough situation, but we want to foster a safe environment so that our students are able to learn.” 

Dominguez confirmed that all schools involved in today’s events will be returning to a regular day tomorrow; however, “there will be additional police presence” around and at NHPS schools. She also confirmed that NHPD has been working with federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI on the threats that were made today. 

Cross is the largest school in the New Haven Public School system. 

YASH ROY
Yash Roy covers education & youth services in New Haven and is a P&D staffer. He is a first year in Timothy Dwight College and is from Princeton, NJ.