School official wrestles gun from armed man

June 9, 2009 12:28:59 PM PDT
An armed man walked into a suburban New York middle school with a handgun Tuesday but was wrestled to the floor by the district superintendent, who wrenched the weapon away and pinned the man until police knocked down a door and arrested him, authorities said. No one was injured and no shots were fired in the events at South Orangetown Middle School in Blauvelt, about 20 miles north of New York City, authorities said.

The man walked into the school around 11:45 a.m. and confronted Ken Mitchell, the South Orangetown Central School District superintendent, about an unspecified "minor" issue, said Orangetown Supervisor Thom Kleiner.

Mitchell talked the man down, wrestle him to the ground and took the gun away, Kleiner said.

"He managed to pin him down and right then the police were there and broke down the door to his office and took the man away," he said. Authorities did not identify the man.

A district spokeswoman, B.J. Greco, said that the students were "100 percent safe."

"My belief is that the suspect went right to the administration office, and the children were never in danger," said Orangetown Police Sgt. Sean Russo. It appears no shots were fired.

Greco could not explain how the man got into the building. Parent Eleanor Klepper said the front door is usually unlocked during the day and has a security guard posted there. Anyone entering must sign in.

A SWAT team and several police agencies sent units to the 800-student school, which was locked down until 2:20 p.m. Parents could then pick up their children after signing for them.

Others schools in the district allowed no one in but would let people leave. Officials initially directed South Orangetown Middle School parents to go to the Sons of Italy Lodge, about two blocks from the school.

Klepper and her husband, Chris, were at the lodge before the lockdown was lifted and said they worried about their daughters, in grades 6 and 7, even though they were told immediately that they were safe.

"It's very scary," Eleanor Klepper said. "It's scary not knowing, not hearing from your kids, and it's scary that someone got in like this."

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