On Friday, October 7, Race Brook School was placed under lockdown at roughly 10 a.m. as Orange Police officers, in conjunction with officers from Woodbridge, Milford, Stratford, Hamden and the CT State Police, searched for a subject wanted in connection with a bank robbery that occurred in Woodbridge. According to police, a bank was robbed earlier that morning and Woodbridge officers tracked the suspect to Orange, where the suspect abandoned his vehicle in the area of Route 34 and fled on foot. With help from a low-flying police helicopter (that caused some excitement among students as it landed in the field at Amity Middle School in Orange that morning), a canine team from Milford was able to capture the suspect in a wooded area off of Cummings Drive near Race Brook School. The gun the alleged robber used to rob the bank was found nearby.
Superintendent of Schools Vince Scarpetti said, “The police department informed the secretary that a lockdown needed to be put in place due to a robbery”. A ‘Command Central’ was created at the board of education office where the school was able to be viewed on a monitor through the security system by central office staff.
“During the time of the lockdown, we did our best to communicate with parents as quickly as possible,” Scarpetti said. “Sometimes things like this hit the media before it gets to me and that’s what happened here. I was at Chip’s at a ‘Coffee With Cops’ event and by the time I got to my office, Channel Four already knew about this. That’s an important piece for all of us to know—parents should know that we are always trying to stay ahead of the press.”
Three emails went out to parents from the board of education and additional communication came to residents town-wide from the police department. “We try to share as much detail about the robbery as possible. When you’re dealing with a lockdown at your child’s school, you can imagine the feelings and emotions!” Scarpetti said.
Upon arrival, police created a perimeter around Race Brook School in the event that the alleged robber would try to approach the school. “In the email, I asked parents to please not go to the school. Even after the lockdown was lifted and we were under a ‘lock-in,’ police wanted to protect evidence in the area and once all evidence was collected, police stayed at the school for the remainder of the day,” Scarpetti said.
“I want to compliment Mr. Gray and his staff with regards to how they handled themselves. I also thank the police department. Communication with Chief Gagne was phenomenal. I was at the school for dismissal and I talked to some parents who were obviously scared and upset during the day. It was so nice that parents, even knowing what was going, placed a huge piece in the collaboration.”
That Friday evening, as a thank you to Orange Police, a resident delivered a bakery cake to headquarters. Shared on the police department’s Facebook page was the following note of thanks from the PD: ‘The men and women of the Orange Police work hard every day. When there is a critical test of our systems, it’s always a proud moment when there is a successful resolution. It is even more rewarding when we can share messages of gratitude, whether from citizens here on Facebook or beyond. This special treat was delivered to HQ this evening and is deeply appreciated. Once again, thank you to all of our Law Enforcement partners, we were happy to assist Woodbridge PD on this incident.’ The police department’s Facebook page was flooded with positive comments and accolades that evening, as residents and parents expressed their gratitude for keeping the community safe.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent