Lockdowns Over; Reported Rifleman Not Found

Thomas MacMillan Photo(Updated 3:41 p.m.) Common Ground High School and Brennan Rogers School went on lockdown for about an hour Wednesday afternoon as police combed the area looking for a man reportedly roaming the vicinity with a rifle.

The gunman was not reported to have entered the grounds of Common Ground or Brennan Rogers.

Someone spotted an “Asian male dressed in all black with a long rifle possibly with a scope on top” at the transfer station on Wintergreen Avenue not far from the schools, according to top Westville/West Rock cop Lt. Marty Tchakirides.

The transfer station straddles the New Haven/Hamden line. The police blocked off streets in the area. And New Haven, Southern Connecticut State University, Yale, and Hamden cops were searching the area for the alleged gunman, Tchakirides reported at 2:20 p.m.

He said he ordered the schools locked down “as a precaution.” The children did not appear in any danger. Tchakarides sent officers to the schools to reassure everyone.

“We’re taking it one step at a time right now,” he said.

At 2:28 p.m. the schools were released from lockdown, according to Lt. Jeff Hoffman. The gunman had been reported moving in the woods on the Hamden side, away from New Haven.

Hamden police cleared the roads and called off the search about another hour later.

Common Ground had been about to let out when the order was given Wednesday.

Cheri Ward (pictured) was in the driveway to pick up her daughter Elizabeth, a junior. Elizabeth began walking in the driveway toward her mom, then was ushered back inside along with the other children.

Elizabeth then called her mom from inside the classroom. She put her teacher on the phone. The teacher tasked Cheri to tell parents to leave the area. The teacher said the school would contact parents when it is safe to come retrieve their children.

Several parents subsequently arrived on the scene. Ward informed them of the lockdown and the request to leave, which they heeded.

Ward herself remained at the driveway to the school. She said she didn’t feel scared for her own safety.

“I’m more concerned for my daughter than for myself,” she said.

By 2:20 p.m. Common Ground allowed children to leave if their parents were present to pick them up. The parents had to sign out the children.

After the students were released, Elizabeth Ward said the students practice the lockdown twice a month. The doors are locked, the blinds pulled. The students go to a corner where they can’t be seen by anyone trying to peek through the windows.

Wednesday was the first time her class had to do the drill for real, Elizabeth said.

During Wednesday’s lockdown, some kids were nervous, she reported. Others were talking on the phone.

Cheri said she worried about her mom. “I was also nervous. What if a person did come in?”

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posted by: Fair and Honest on March 13, 2013  4:36pm

I was driving along Blake street at about 1:30 PM today when first one, then another, NHPD car passed me with lights and sirens going, and headed up Springside toward Common Ground. 

From the way they were driving, it seemed clear something was up and they were in a hurry—at the same time, they seemed intent and in control.  Good job NHPD for a fast and professional response.

posted by: hillhouseteacher on March 13, 2013  4:56pm

I’m glad everything worked out well for Common Ground and Brennan Rogers. But why wasn’t anything done at Hillhouse when there was a murder two blocks away? All we received were some lockdown rumors and then a condescending announcement that teachers shouldn’t begin lockdown procedures unless they’re told to do so. Also, it’s great that these schools are able to practice the lockdown procedures…we’ve had one code red practice all year. The differences of what actually goes on in our city’s schools is fascinating.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 14, 2013  9:36am


Can you say more about the day of the murder near Hillhouse? I strongly agree that there are significant differences in what goes on in our city’s (and our country’s!) schools. Those differences have to be exposed & made clear to more people. It is outrageous that there would be an extensive lockdown at certain schools and not others.