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Police: Grandfather of Meriden Students Causes School Scare in Middletown

Police say a man, worried about his grandchildren's safety after the Newtown school shootings, approached an elementary school and asked the principal if she should carry a gun, "like in Texas."

 

The schools superintendent says students at one city elementary school were at no point at risk after a man entered the grounds and, referencing the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, asked the principal why she wasn't carrying a gun, "like Texas."

Some Moody Elementary School parents have questioned why they were not alerted about the incident, which took place Friday just before noon. But Superintendent of Middletown Schools Patricia Charles says a prolonged police investigation, which found the man posed no danger to the children, wrapped up just as classes were dismissing for the day. 

Parents were not told until Monday once children returned to Moody, Charles says, "because the person never got into the building, the kids were never threatened, and the staff did exactly what they're supposed to do."

On Jan. 4 at 11:23 a.m., police were called to the school on Country Club Road by the principal Yolande Eldridge, who, with the secretary, appeared "very upset" and one was crying, the report says. 

At 11 a.m., they told police, Robert E. Manning, 66, of Tuscany Hills Drive, came to the front door of Moody elementary and asked, "how secure is this school?" The question alarmed and frightened the secretary, the report says, who went into the nurse's office, because, "she was unsure of the unknown male's intentions and if he was there to act out a similar incident as Sandy Hook."

When the principal approached, he asked her, "don't you think you should carry a gun like [in] Texas?" and referenced the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

As strange as the incident sounds, it turns out, according to police, Manning had stopped by the school to see if security had increased since the Sandy Hook incident, and told police his grandchildren attend Meriden Public Schools.

Manning told officers Moody was the closest school to his home and didn't think there was anything wrong with going there and asking questions.

Once all the facts had been gathered by police, "he didn't seem to be a threat," Charles said. Still, she admits when it comes to schoolchildren in the aftermath of tragedies like Newtown, administrators can never be too precautious.

"This day and age, you just can't say those things, you can't ask those things without people becoming concerned," Charles said. "But he didn't have any children at the school, he was very forthcoming in that regard, he didn't run away after Yolande talked to him or anything. She didn't view it as threatening."

Charles praised Eldridge's and the secretary's adherence to protocol. "I'm really proud that they followed procedure and the person never got into the school. Further, they gave the identification information to police and they were accurate."

The report says Eldridge asked for his license, then told him she would talk to him by appointment only and he left five minutes later in his Honda Civic. 

Both the secretary and principal offered a complete physical description of Manning and his car and a partial license plate, which allowed officers to trace him, the report says.

A search of similar vehicles led them to Manning's home, where, the report says, he admitted to visiting the school. He was charged with second-degree breach of peace and told not to visit school grounds again.

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MultoBene January 09, 2013 at 11:57 AM
How on earth was that "breach of peace!?" This world is just too crazy! It seems to me that the concern was FOR the children and school staff. I don't know what grounds there were for charging a grandfather, a concerned citizen, with anything other than being overly concerned about the safety and welfare of our schools. Reactions are overboard when FEAR takes over. Rediculous that this man was charged. I think they should take his advice instead!
Bud Greenbacker January 09, 2013 at 12:40 PM
A man stops at a school to ask about security. For his concern over children safety, he is arrested and charged with breach of peace. How does that make you feel? You are not allowed to check on the security of the school where your children attend, without fear of being arrested? I feel this over reacting.
MisterSpuddy January 10, 2013 at 01:44 AM
His children did not attend the school. And if he thinks things are better in Texas, maybe he should go there.

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