YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A threatening voicemail message left for an Elmwood Park High School guidance counselor that was traced to the Bronx forced the lockdown of schools in three towns, sparked a massive police response and drew crowds of anxious parents as word spread through texts and social networks, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
A law enforcement source said the caller apparently was involved in some type of dispute with another teen over a girl. Investigators were looking to talk with both boys, the source said.
Elmwood Park authorities began dismissing students around 2:45 this afternoon following a sweep of the building.
Both Saddle Brook and Garfield briefly locked down schools in their towns, as well, which police said was done as a precaution. But the lockdowns in those two districts were soon lifted.
Word began spreading within minutes of the 9 a.m. decision to lock down the high school after the guidance counselor found the voice message, which a law enforcement official told CLIFFVIEW PILOT “wasn’t specific.”
Wanting not to take chances, Elmwood Park and the neighboring districts sought to protect the schoolchildren and staff.
Special units from both the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the Bergen County Police Department rushed to the high school to join borough police. State Police also were at the scene.
Meanwhile, some anxious parents showed up at the school, where Elmwood Park Schools Superintendent Richard Tomko provided regular updates. Others followed through social networks, including the Elmwood Park PBA’s Facebook page .
“Thank you for your cooperation,” the PBA wrote in a post around 2:45. “We are conducting a controlled release of students from the Gilbert Ave(nue) side of the school. Please be patient to help ensure a calm and safe exit.”
Parents, in turn, praised police.
“Thank you to the Elmwood Park PD for keeping our community and children safe!” Greg Thompson wrote on Facebook.
“With all the resent negativity shown towards our BOE and our [s]uperintendent, [l]et’s give them praise for how they handled today’s potential threat,” added Joe Dombrowski. “Thank you Mr. Tomko and all BOE and the Elmwood Park PBA.”
Karyn Rooney Ochiuzzo said she was “lucky enough to keep in touch with [her nephew] via texting. Great job Elmwood Park PBA in keeping the kids & teachers safe!”
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