'Nerf' Gun Rumor Forced Lockdown at Bronx School, Cops Say
CLAREMONT — A Bronx school building was temporarily locked down Tuesday morning after a 12-year-old boy was overheard talking about his "Nerf" gun, police said.
A rumor that the boy had a firearm quickly spread throughout the school, located at 1701 Fulton Ave., near East 174th Street, about 8:15 a.m., according to the NYPD and Department of Education officials.
The student, whose identity has not been released, told a classmate about the toy, police said. The conversation was overheard, however, and school officials were notified.
That's when a principal at the campus — which houses the Leadership Institute, P.S. 4, and M.S. 4 — called a lockdown of the facilities after hearing about the rumor, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.
Students said the principal broadcast a pre-established code word over the campus public address system to tell them to hide.
"I was in the cafeteria eating and then they gave out the secret code for an intruder in the building," said 10-year-old Kendolyn Garner, whose mother prevented her from revealing the secret word. "Everybody had to go under the table and everybody had to make a plan for what we had to do if the intruder came into the cafeteria.
"Me and my best friend, we were just thinking what would our parents do if we got killed," she added.
Perry Frazier, who is in fifth-grade, was eating breakfast when he heard the code word and knew to hide because he and his classmates had practiced the procedure before.
"But this wasn't a drill," Perry said. "Everybody was hiding under the table. All the girls were crying. Our teacher was scared."
Jacklyn Williams, whose two children attend schools in the building, received a panicked phone call from her 9-year-old daughter after she wasn't allowed in the facility.
"She called home and said the school was locked down. Nobody knew what was happening," said Williams, whose 11-year-old daughter was inside the building at the time. "I got worried."
Cops raced to the building and, after an investigation, found that the boy had left the toy weapon at home. A school official addressed reporters outside about 10:20 a.m. and said the incident had been resolved.
No one was injured, the official added, and parents had the option of picking up their children early or leaving them at school for the rest of the day.
"Nerf" guns shoot harmless foam darts and are sold in bright colors, which distinguish them from lethal weapons.
Tuesday's incident comes just two weeks after a 7-year-old boy unwittingly brought his mother's handgun to a Queens elementary school.
After the Bronx lockdown was lifted, parents and their students mixed with reporters and police outside, all keenly aware of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 first-graders and six school officials just a month before.
Aricelis Arroyo, whose 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son attend P.S. 4, rushed to the school after hearing about the lockdown.
"When I got there I heard there was a report of a gun and they had the majority of the children in the lunch room," Arroyo said. "I was hysterical. I was trying to contain myself from crying."
Arroyo's son, Maleek Satchel, said the school had been drilling for such an incident after the Sandy Hook massacre.
"After what happened in Connecticut, it's just good that we are prepared for things like this," Maleek said.