Police & Fire

West Caldwell Essex Valley School on Lockdown; Clinton Road Closed

Credits: Britney Ott


Updated 11:26 a.m. Thursday
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At 6:57 p.m., West Caldwell Chief of Police Michael J. Bramhall put out the following statement: 

"The West Caldwell Police Department and all other assisting emergency response assets have completed the investigation at Essex Valley School, 1 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell, NJ. No firearms were located in the school.

The five detained students were released at the scene and charges are pending, which are unrelated to the initial investigation. After the school was cleared, the other students and staff completed the lock-down drill and the student transportation was coordinated by the school administration."

WEST CALDWELL, NJ - At 12:08 p.m., Wednesday, West Caldwell Police arrived at Essex Valley School on reports of a student carrying a weapon. The information was provided to them from a staff member who had relayed the information to police from a student who believed another student had a gun in their possession. 

The school, which is located at 1 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell, was placed in lockdown and mutual aid was provided by area police departments. Police searched room by room for persons of concern or traces of a weapon and also searched the exterior of the building as well. Clinton Road was reopened at 3:38 p.m. and Henderson road remained closed until the investigation was completed. 

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1 henderson drive essex valley school.jpg
Essex Valley School, located at 1 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell   Credit: Google Maps


By 12:16 p.m., the Caldwell Police Department was on the scene to provide mutual aid; within minutes Roseland, Essex Fells and North Caldwell units were at the scene as well. The West Essex First Aid Squad was called to be on stand-by at 12:32 p.m. and they also arrived at the scene. One staff member was treated for an injury on scene which may or may not have been related to the event.

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit was also called to assist in searching the school. 

henderson by driver.jpg
Credit: Carolyn Torchia Driver

The helicopter activity overhead earlier was due to Governor Chris Christie attending a Town Hall Meeting in Fairfield which began at 1 p.m. 

At 1:16 p.m. the West Caldwell Police put out a public message:

"Essex Valley School, 1 Henderson Drive in West Caldwell is locked down due to a police investigation. Clinton Road and Henderson Drive are closed in the area. 
The issue is being investigated and is not extended outside the school building.
No other schools or businesses are involved."

by carolyn tochia driver.jpg
Credit: Carolyn Torchia Driver  

At 2:21 p.m., Chief Bramhall put out the following public statement: 

"On Wednesday, April 9 at 12:08 p.m., the West Caldwell Police Department began an investigation at Essex Valley School, 1 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell, NJ as a result of information received from a school staff member that a student attending school had a gun in their possession. The weapon was not witnessed by any staff members. The information was brought to the attention of a staff member by another student.  

As a precaution a lock-down procedure is in effect and a thorough search of the school is underway. As of this afternoon no weapon has been located and the search is continuing room by room. 

The West Caldwell Police Department is being assisted by neighboring police departments and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit. A follow-up statement will be made upon conclusion of the incident. "

Although students are normally dismissed at this hour, at 2:36 p.m., the chief commented, "No one will be permitted to leave the school until we have completed the investigation."

At 2:39 p.m. Fairfield Police arrived and assisted at the scene, along with Essex County Sheriff officers. By 2:42 p.m., Montville and Montclair departments also arrived. The large police presence was established so that one by one students could be led out of the building.  

By 2:59 p.m. the Essex County K-9 unit were searching specfic rooms for a weapon. As each room was investigated by the dogs, the room was then secured. 

The New Jersey State Police were at the school by 3:30 p.m. to continue the investigation along with West Caldwell Police.  

The room by room search was completed with no weapon found as of 4:19 p.m.; police then had K-9 units search the locker areas and larger room areas such as the gym and auditorium. At 4:29 p.m., the West Caldwell Fire Department was called to the school to assist with a ladder which was needed to search in an elevated area of the gym. 

At 4:41 p.m. Bramhall put out a public message stating: 

"The investigation and search continue at the Essex Valley School in West Caldwell, NJ. One staff member became ill and was treated at the scene by the West Essex First Aid Squad. That staff member was not transported to a hospital, but was released at the scene.

Five students were detained at the school, no information regarding charges can be released at this time. A further update will be released upon the conclusion of the investigation."

The West Essex First Aid Squad was dismissed from the school at 5:01 p.m. however they returned to the school at 5:11 p.m. due to another medical emergency at the school. 

At 5:18 p.m., the chief commented:

"Five individuals were taken into custody to our headquarters today and are being charged on local summonses. They were taken in because they were not following the officer's instructions during the search procedure. We are verifying their identities and will then release them back to the school."

5:23 p.m.; the school buses were in place but no students were released from the school. 

buses by ott.jpg
Credit: Britney Ott

By 6:00 p.m. the lockdown was lifted and the students were released to their families. 

At 6:57 p.m., Chief Bramhall put out the following statement: 

"The West Caldwell Police Department and all other assisting emergency response assets have completed the investigation at Essex Valley School, 1 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell, NJ. No firearms were located in the school.

The five detained students were released at the scene and charges are pending, which are unrelated to the initial investigation. After the school was cleared, the other students and staff completed the lock-down drill and the student transportation was coordinated by the school administration."

At 9:15 p.m., Steve Goodman, the assistant director at Essex Valley School, put out a public statement saying: 

"On behalf of all the staff and students of Essex Valley School and of course myself, I would like to send out a huge thank you to the West Caldwell Police department and the neighboring support that was offered during our lockdown situation today. As always the West Caldwell Police responded quickly and were extremely professional and organized.

Their actions made a potentially dangerous situation much easier to deal with knowing there was a plan in place which was expedited efficiently. I cannot speak highly enough about our police dept. We are very lucky to have them protecting us. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. "

 

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