Arrest made after gun fear triggers GHS lockdown

 

Greenwich High School students are all safe but there was tension and fear throughout Thursday morning as the school was in lockdown. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School students are all safe but there was tension and fear throughout Thursday morning as the school was in lockdown. — John Ferris Robben photo

UPDATED THURSDAY 6:45 P.M. —  Police have confirmed an arrest after fears about a student with a gun triggered a lockdown Thursday morning at Greenwich High School. Gianfranco Romero, 19, of  168 Water Street, has been charged with breach of peace and is due to appear in court next Friday, April 19.

Police allege that Mr. Romero, who is a GHS student, made claims to other students that he possessed a firearm in his bag and that he intended to go to another state and shoot people. This caused alarm in the other students and the call was made to police and the lockdown began as per protocol for safety and security in the district.

Ultimately no weapons were found in Mr. Romero’s possession or in his home, which was searched with the permission of his mother.

The call to police came at approximately 10:43 a.m. on Thursday  from another student who claimed someone was walking into the school with a gun. Police, including School Resource Officer Carlos Franco, responded and Mr. Romero was “quickly located and detained at gunpoint” according to GPD Public Information Officer Lt. Kraig Gray. Lt. Gray said that Mr. Romero was “extremely cooperative” and that he was immediately searched and found not to have a weapon in his backpack as he claimed.

After the lockdown was lifted, GHS returned to a normal schedule with dismissal happening at the typical time. There were no injuries suffered and parents were informed that their children were safe. Initially parents came to the school looking for their kids, but that created a heavy traffic condition that lessened once parents were told that all was well.

First Selectman Peter Tesei, Chief of Police James Heavey and Superintendent of Schools William McKersie all appeared at an afternoon press briefing on the matter and all praised the performance of GHS School Resource Officer Franco as well as the district’s security and safety protocols. Dr. McKersie said this was a test the district had passed with “flying colors.”

Mr. Romero, under district policy, will not be allowed to return to GHS until a “risk-assessment” can be completed by the district. In addition to his arrest, he is also expected to face disciplinary action from the school.

In a letter sent to parents on Thursday, Dr. McKersie wrote, “Today, we witnessed our safety and security measures in action. I am reassured that we have strong procedures in place and the expertise in our schools and community necessary to respond to threats. I commend the Greenwich High School administration and staff, the Greenwich Police Department, including School Resource Officer (SRO) Franco, and our GHS students for their swift and professional response to a situation that resulted in a lockdown. Thank you for your cooperation and patience with today’s event.”

He added, “While there were no physical injuries today, students and adults have experienced a highly stressful situation. Some at the high school witnessed armed police officers following protocols in responding to the perceived threat. Students will need to process this experience and will be looking to the adults in their lives for guidance.  The National Association of School Psychologists advises the following for supporting children after a crisis, ‘Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible. Allowing children to deal with their reactions is important but so is providing a sense of normalcy.’ For the most part, just being available to listen to what they experienced and providing reassurance will be helpful. Guidance counselors and mental health staff at the high school are available for anyone that may need additional support. Please contact your guidance  counselor or a school administrator if you feel that your child needs to speak with someone about this experience.”

There is expected to be an increased police presence in the school in addition to Officer Franco through at least the end of the week. The school will not be in session next Monday through Thursday for the April break.

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