Police: Woman Raving About Shootings At Holden School 'Not A Threat'

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Holden Police responded to a report of a 55-year old woman ranting about Sandy Hook this morning at Dawson Elementary.
Holden Police responded to a report of a 55-year old woman ranting about Sandy Hook this morning at Dawson Elementary. Photo Credit: Daniel Castro

HOLDEN, Mass. — A woman ranting about the Sandy Hook School shootings Wednesday morning caused administrators at the Dawson Elementary School to take precautions for student safety. Holden Police said the woman was not a threat.

At around 11 a.m., near the end of the annual winter concert, a 55-year old woman came into the main office "screaming and visibly upset," Police Chief George R. Sherrill said.

"She was ranting and raving about Connecticut and 20 dead children," he added, explaining that she had written on a piece of paper something to the effect of "Newtown Connecticut, 20 children, six adults dead."

Sherrill said the woman did not have any weapons, and never made any violent gestures or threats.

"She just made her statement and left almost as quickly as she came in," he said.

Holden Police and the Holden Fire Department arrived at the school within minutes after being notified of the incident, and were able to locate the woman at the Dawson Pool with her car.

"Clearly there was something medical going on, something wrong," said Sherrill.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

Sherill said she appeared very well-dressed, and not disheveled at all. He identified her as a Holden resident with no connection to the school.

"She's lived in town for a number of years, there's been no calls to the house and no medical issues that we're aware of, but clearly there's something going on," he said.

While the chief hasn't received any report from the hospital as to the cause of her condition, he said, it could be anything from over-medication or under-medication.

The department will continue to investigate and follow up with the woman following her release.

Dawson Principal Patricia Scales instructed students to go into their classrooms and lock their doors, Sherrill said.

"There was not an announcement that we're in complete lock down. Just those rooms in the area," he said. "There were a lot of kids in the area and she had teachers herd them into their rooms so they wouldn't observe (the incident) and get upset."

Sherrill said the woman was able to enter the school because of the public event.

"We talked about this many years ago when the schools went to the locked doors and the buzzers," he said. "More likely than not when you buzz someone in, it's going to be someone you know — an employee or friends or acquaintances — and the statistics are that that person is going to be the aggressor. It could be a disgruntled employee or a disgruntled parent, and now they're stuck in the building with you and it could take the fire and police that much longer to get through those locked doors."

Sherrill said that the department has been adding extra police presence at all the schools.

"We know parents are worried, and rightfully so," he said. "School safety has always been at the top of our list."

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I'm wondering, after reading this, if it would make sense to have the office staff speak with the visitor through an intercom first to ascertain the reason for the visit instead of automatically being buzzed in on recognition. Staff would be able to tell from a conversation if someone is disgruntled or upset and as to what degree and then make a decision if appropriate to be let into the school.