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Emotionally Distressed Man Armed with Toy Gun Causes Shelter in Place Status at NJ High School


Camp By: Richard L. Smith 

Authorities in Essex County are investigating an incident where an emotionally distressed armed man forced a Maplewood school to shelter in place Thursday. 

Detective Lieutenant Michael Palmerezzi said Maplewood Police responded to the area of Columbia High School (CHS) on a report of an unknown male that had a verbal altercation with a teacher at Ritzer field.

Lt. Palmerezzi said the teacher advised CHS administration staff of a possible threat that led the school to be placed into a modified lockdown.

Moments earlier, Lt. Palmerezzi said the Maplewood Police received a call from CVS about an unruly male who assaulted a store patron.

 The unknown male was described as follows: African American, 5’8 – 5’9 height, heavy set, wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt, black sweat pants with his glasses on his head.

According to Lt. Palmerezzi, police made contact at the intersection of Jefferson Ave and Valley Street with the unknown male.

 As patrols stopped the male to investigate the incident, they observed a purple toy water gun protruding from his pocket that was confiscated.


 Due to the male exhibiting signs of clear altered mental status, Lt. Palmerezzi said the unidentified man was evaluated by South Essex Fire Department and transported to Newark Beth Israel Hospital.  

He was ultimately evaluated and released from Newark Beth Israel Hospital to Maplewood Police custody, then transported to Essex County Correctional Facility due to an outstanding warrant out of Pennsylvania.

“At no time was the school entered or threats made towards students,” Lt. Palmerezzi said.