PATERSON — Authorities imposed a lockdown at John F. Kennedy High School on Wednesday afternoon after getting reports that a student involved in a fight earlier in the day would be returning with a gun, officials said.
Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said the student in question never made it back to the school and that the crisis ended without gunfire or injury. As of 3:30 p.m., police said no arrests had been made, nor any weapon found.
But students and their family members said they endured a horrifying experience as misinformation spread on social media about a shooting taking place inside the school.
“My brother is in there. I’m terrified,” said Suzy Sarah Marie, a 17-year-old who said she starting crying when she called her brother’s cellphone and it went right to voicemail.
One parent, who gave only his first name, Aaron, said he rushed from work to the school when he heard reports about a possible shooter.
“You can call Paterson a city with no hope,” Aaron said.
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A junior at Kennedy, who gave his name as Trav, said he was in Spanish class when he heard the intercom announcement about the lockdown.
“I wasn’t bothered at all. It’s just another day in the ‘hood,” he said.
But Trav said he would have run from the building if he heard gunfire, regardless of the lockdown.
“I’m 17 — I want to live to be 18,” he said.
Authorities would not say whether the student involved in the fight threatened to return with a gun or someone else warned officials that he planned to do so. Speziale said it was being investigated by detectives in the juvenile division.
“You can’t take these things lightly, especially in this day and age,” said the public safety director.
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Mayor Andre Sayegh also issued a brief statement.
“I was at the school with our superintendent and Public Safety Director to ensure that everyone in the building was safe,” Sayegh said. “We take any threat of violence very seriously and we responded in the appropriate manner.”
The lockdown started at about 12:18 p.m., and some students said they spent between 90 minutes and two hours inside the school waiting to be dismissed. Officials put into effect a staggered evacuation of the building, with small groups of about 50 students at a time getting sent home.
Check back for more on this developing story.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.