Police: Student had thoughts of mass shooting at Westport school

WESTPORT --  Police said a student at Staples High School was taken into custody after making shooting threats Tuesday morning.

Westport police said they were contacted by Staples High School officials in regards to a juvenile male student who was overheard making threats to shoot a teacher.

"Officers and detectives responded to Staples High School where the male student was already being interviewed by school administration," Westport police said. "Based on the information learned by school administrators, it was confirmed the student did have thoughts of executing a mass shooting at the high school."

At this time, we continue to investigate whether these thoughts developed into a plan, Westport police added.

Westport police said detectives did find firearms in the student's home.

"The firearms belong to the student’s father and were reportedly locked in a safe," said Westport police. "However, officers could not confirm whether all the firearms were accounted for."

At a press conference, Westport police said the guns found locked up in the home were the same type of weapons seen in other school shootings.

Police did not release any other information on the weapons found inside the home.

“We cannot express our gratitude enough for this student who decided to say something about it,” Westport Police Lt. Jillian Cabana said. “He did the right thing went to school administrators and really prevented a potential tragedy.”

Following these threats, students, faculty at Staples High School were directed to shelter in place while buses were available for dismissal in the afternoon.

"Also as a precaution, officers were posted at all other schools in town to assist, although no other schools dismissed early," police said.

Police said the suspect is in custody and the family is cooperating with the investigation and search warrants have been executed at the residence.

"The Westport Police Department will conduct a search of the entire school facility to confirm the school is safe for a return tomorrow morning,"  said Westport police.

Westport police said they will ramp up patrols at Westport Public Schools the rest of the week as a precautionary measure.

Superintendent of Westport Public Schools released the following statement:

Dear Families of Westport Students,

This morning, a student at Staples High School reported to administration that they had overheard some threatening statements by another student targeted at a staff member within the school. We commend this student for the courage to come forward to share this critical information about our safety.

Within minutes of this knowledge, a Staples administrator had the student of concern supervised in the main office, called the police, and called my office. From that point on, our Central Office administrative team, the Staples High School administrative team, the Westport Police Department, and our First Selectman worked hand-in-hand to address the presenting issues throughout the day. As a precautionary measure, police officers were assigned to our high school.

It was only several hours later that information emerged that prompted us to shift to our strategy to shelter in place and to dismiss early.
The events of today unfolded dynamically and rapidly. Since this is an ongoing police investigation, there is a need to collaborate with the Westport Police Department in sharing further information so as not to impede their work.

I would expect that the events at Staples today impacted you in some way, stirring up many emotions. I can only imagine the level of worry that some of you experienced. The idea that we have to even think about the wave of violence that has hit our schools in these times is unfathomable.

Before Staples reopens for a regular day of school tomorrow, I will meet with its staff to debrief and to commend their exceptional service to our students today. As caring professionals, they remained calm, implemented well-practiced safety protocols, and made every effort to assure our students were comforted and made to feel safe during the events of the day.

To support a conversation with your student regarding these matters, I again attach the helpful guide from the National Association of School Psychologists which provides useful strategies with this communication.

Tomorrow, our professionals will work with our students in developmentally appropriate ways based upon their questions and needs. With our youngest learners, we expect to address individual needs as they emerge. At Staples, support staff will offer small group discussion opportunities, as well as individual support, if needed.

As a community committed to safeguarding its children, we are very fortunate that we were able to work together to keep our students safe and sound today.