Man Who Prompted Lockdown At University Of New Haven Arraigned On Weapons Charges
MILFORD — The armed Fairfield man who prompted a lockdown at the University of New Haven and other area schools Tuesday was arraigned Wednesday on a variety of charges, including illegal possession of an assault weapon.
A Superior Court judge ordered that William Dong, 22, remain in custody on $500,000 bail. If he posts bond, Dong will be subjected to 24-hour monitoring and will have to surrender his passport.
Dong has no criminal record.
The other charges against him include illegal transport of an assault weapon, illegal possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and breach of peace.
During a search of Dong’s home, police found numerous pistol magazines, ammunition and newspaper clippings of mass shootings, police said.
State prosecutor Kevin Lawlor said during Dong’s arraignment that 2,700 rounds of ammunition were found in Dong’s padlocked room.
Tuesday’s incident at UNH was the third time in a month that a Connecticut university campus was locked down after a report of a gunman on campus. And again, local and state police and federal agents flooded the area to search for the gunman and then to check the campus to make sure that there were no additional threats.
Dong was quickly taken into custody without incident.
“West Haven police want to thank our community for notifying the police immediately, which led to this individual’s quick capture,” West Haven police Sgt. David Tammaro said in a statement.
The school remained locked down for 4 1/2 hours, however, as SWAT teams checked the entire campus.
“They can’t be too cautious,” said Michael J. Clark, a former FBI agent who is now a criminal justice professor at UNH and who was locked down with a class for several hours as SWAT teams cleared the campus.
“It was very professionally done,” Clark said.
The police protocols in place for these types of situations in Connecticut have changed recently, he said, acknowledging the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost one year ago. There is always a concern in law enforcement about copycats, he said.
Minutes after the initial report about a man with a gun, West Haven officers had a description of a suspect and found him moments later on the UNH campus. Four or five officers surrounded Dong, a UNH commuter student, and took him into custody. Dong showed no emotion, said one of the officers who helped arrest him.
Dong’s car, a blue Toyota Rav 4 SUV, was towed from the New Haven Plaza shopping center parking lot Tuesday afternoon. West Haven police Sgt. David Tammaro said detectives were seeking a search warrant for the car, and were searching Dong’s parents’ home on Stratfield Road in Fairfield. Police did find a rifle and ammunition magazines in the SUV, he said.
Police were interviewing Dong on Tuesday night and did not immediately say what charges they were filing against him.
“Detectives are going through his background with a fine-toothed comb,” West Haven police Sgt. David Tammaro said.
It was also not clear what Dong was doing on campus with firearms, police said.
“We don’t know why he was carrying those weapons,” Tammaro said.
The campuswide search was carried out so that police could be certain that there were no other threats, Tammaro said.
Fairfield police said that Dong was issued a pistol permit in April 2013 and has two legally registered handguns. “Obviously, that doesn’t extend to long guns or a shotgun,” said Sgt. Suzanne Lussier. Permits are not required for long guns.
The campus was put on lockdown about 12:45 p.m. after callers to 911 reported seeing a man with a rifle get out of a car at the New Haven Plaza on Campbell Street and begin walking toward the nearby campus.
A “shelter in place” order remained in effect on the campus long after Dong was taken into custody as police searched campus buildings.
That order was lifted for the North Campus and the South Campus about 3:30 p.m., and for all areas about 5:15 p.m. Evening classes were canceled, the school said.
Christopher Paoletti — a Bridgeport resident and instructor for ALICE, a program that trains students to respond to active shooter situations — said that the police response at UNH was necessary and appropriate.
“We can no longer take this lightly,” he said.
Paoletti, a former Trumbull police sergeant, and three other individuals with backgrounds in law enforcement, school administration and the military, recently formed a national school security consulting and training group called the School Security Assessment Group. Paoletti said that with the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting approaching and the way that shootings are “sensationalized,” there is always a need for focus on school security.
“These things do happen,” he said.
After the campus was locked down, traffic was blocked on nearby roadways as police from throughout the region rushed to the scene.
Nearby schools were also locked down as a precaution.
Brooke Martins, an 18-year-old UNH student from Andover, was in her room in the Bixler Hall dormitory when she got an alert at 12:45 p.m., she said.
“We were told to stay locked down, make sure doors were locked, stay away from windows,” she said. “At first we all freaked out, but we know it’s safe here.”
Martins said that she and her roommates could see police searching the area with dogs.
Joseph Wilson, a lecturer in history and global studies, said that he was just beginning an anthropology lecture when the class received the notice to shelter in place.
Wilson said that, at first, there was tension, but that it dissipated as it became apparent that there was no more threat. He said he saw no evidence of panic on the campus.
“There are lots of criminal justice students on campus, so there were cool heads,” Wilson said.
After the lockdown was lifted, many of those students thanked West Haven and other police officers for their efforts.
“Is safety worth an inconvenience? Absolutely,” said Clark, the UNH professor.
On Nov. 4, the Central Connecticut State University campus in New Britain was locked down after police received a report of a man walking around with what appeared to be weapons, including a gun, while wearing tactical gear. Police later learned that the gun, weapons and outfit were aHalloween costume. The man, David Kyem of Newington, was charged with breach of peace.
Yale University in New Haven was locked down Nov. 25 after an anonymous call from a phone booth warned of an armed man stalking the campus. A massive response by heavily armed police caused traffic problems throughout the city. After investigation, police suspect that the call might have been a prank.
By Kelly Glista, David Owens and Josh Kovner from the Hartford Courant.