When she was on the Hillhouse high school track team in the ‘80s, Officer Nancy Jordan set a new record for the 200 meter sprint. One tense morning decades later, she found herself running for her school once more, sprinting to keep it safe from an alleged man with a gun.
Officer Jordan (pictured with Principal Kermit Carolina), a 14-year veteran of the New Haven police department, wasn’t running on a track on Dec. 19. She’d just heard word of a gun threat, and was rushing down a hall inside Hillhouse high, moving to shut the school down to protect the students and faculty.
Although the gun threat turned out to be a false alarm, Jordan’s quick work helped coordinate school staff and New Haven police to respond to the alert. On Monday afternoon, Jordan was recognized for her hustle that day.
Officer Jordan is a school resource officer assigned to Hillhouse High, along with Officer James Baker (pictured), who had been out on vacation during the Dec. 19 gun threat. Both officers were among cops recently recognized by a Dixwell church. During Christmastime, Jordan helped organize donations to the family of shooting victims.
At a Monday afternoon faculty meeting, both officers received official citations from Hillhouse Principal Carolina, for the gun threat response and also for their work throughout the year.
Carolina said Jordan’s presence in the building on Dec. 19 was soothing to staff and faculty. Her relationships with students and her familiarity with the school paid off that day, by allowing her to coordinate logistics and make people feel secure, he said.
Carolina (pictured) said school security also did a great job that day, and will be recognized at an upcoming award ceremony.
When faced with danger, cops “can’t run from it,” said police Chief Dean Esserman. “They have to run to it.” He said Jordan and Baker make the department proud.
“It’s humbling experience,” Jordan said, after accepting a ceremonial plaque. “I feel very blessed.”
Jordan, who’s 44, said she grew up with Carolina, and graduated from Hillhouse in 1987. She returned to the school in March, as a school resource officer.
She recalled the events of Dec. 19:
“I was sitting in my office,” she said. “And they were calling me on the radio and my cell phone was ringing.” Her sergeant was calling her, just as a police dispatcher was radioing her.
“You just got a threat,” a dispatcher told her. Someone may be coming to “shoot up” the school.
Jordan immediately pulled out her other radio, the “house radio,” that she uses to communicate with school staff. And she started running down the hall. In the lobby, she found Dr. Leroy Williams, a vice-principal.
“Doc, we have to lock the school down!” she said.
“I’m talking real fast,” she recalled. She was trying to express the gravity of the situation, and quickly.
Williams said he would call a meeting of administrators and they would start locking down.
“No, they say he’s coming now!” Jordan said. “Code Red!”
Williams got it. He got on the school intercom and announced Code Red—lockdown. Everyone was to remain in their classrooms.
Using her police and “house” radios, Jordan made sure all the entrances were covered by cops and school security. “I need somebody at every door,” she said.
Jordan took a couple of laps around the building, making sure everyone was sheltering in place. She came upon a teacher who was trying to sneak out of her classroom to go to the bathroom. Jordan told her to get back in the classroom. “I’m sorry, but just for your safety.”
Eventually, it became clear that the school was not in danger. The lockdown lifted.
“Everything happened so fast,” Jordan said. “I didn’t think about it until it was over.”
It wasn’t until later, when she was talking about the experience with her husband, that Jordan found herself getting choked up.
“This is a situation that could have gone bad,” she said. “It got really emotional for me.”
In the moment, when the calls came in, she simply reacted. “I don’t even think about the danger.” Later, she realized all that could have happened, and reflected on the situation not just as a cop doing her job, but as a wife, sister, mother, niece, daughter—and a Hillhouse alum.
“This is like home,” she said, standing in the corridor of her alma mater.