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Norwood-Norfolk school locks down because of ‘erratic’ visitor

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NORWOOD — Steven R. Wells allegedly presented himself at Norwood-Norfolk Central School District offices Friday morning as a visitor bearing a package for a teacher.

The 60-year-old Norfolk resident ended up leaving in handcuffs, an accused stalker with a pellet gun in his coat whose “erratic” behavior alarmed district administrators, prompting a lockdown.

And while state police and the district’s superintendent said they believe school officials handled the situation properly, troopers are still investigating the suspect’s actions in the days leading up to Friday’s security scare.

“There wasn’t a relationship” between Mr. Wells and the female teacher, state police Investigator Andrew S. Gayeskie said Friday. “He thinks there was — in his mind — but it was not a boyfriend-girlfriend-type situation.”

Norwood-Norfolk Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie said Mr. Wells never spoke about hurting anyone while inside the building, nor did he display a weapon.

“At no time did he make any threats,” she said.

In fact, Mrs. Kirnie said, the man came through a secure entrance at about 8:15 a.m., “presented his ID as a visitor and went to the office.”

“Initially, he followed visitor procedures,” she said.

Once Mr. Wells was in the office, however, an administrator who met with him “believed that some of his behavior was a bit erratic” and staff called police, Mrs. Kirnie said.

State police have not released the teacher’s name or indicated what might have been in the package.

“Due to the lockdown procedures initiated by school administration at the beginning of the incident, Wells was not able to gain access to the interior of the school and no students were placed in any type of danger as a result of the incident,” troopers wrote in a statement released Friday.

Mr. Wells “was found to be wearing a shoulder handgun holster with a black Desert Eagle BB pistol, which is considered an imitation pistol, beneath his jacket,” according to the statement.

The weapon was not loaded, Mr. Gayeskie said.

Troopers also confirmed Mr. Wells has faced previous legal sanctions in connection with weapons. In August 2005, state police charged Mr. Wells, then of Massena, with second-degree criminal contempt and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon after he was allegedly found at a Route 37 restaurant with a 9 mm handgun. While full details of that case could not be immediately confirmed later Friday, a 2005 Times report indicated Mr. Wells had been previously barred from possessing handguns under the terms of an Onondaga County Court order.

State police on Friday interviewed the staff member Mr. Wells allegedly asked to see, and she reportedly told investigators he had been stalking and harassing her for several days.

Mr. Wells was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree harassment and fourth-degree stalking. He was arraigned in Norfolk Town Court by Justice Donald G. Lustyik and taken to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, in lieu of $50,000 bail or $100,000 bond. The judge issued an order of protection.

Mrs. Kirnie said students were kept in their classrooms during the incident, “which lasted under an hour.”

The district had previously scheduled a lockdown drill for next week, but that has now been canceled, Mrs. Kirnie said. A letter sent to parents Friday by elementary Principal Rebecca J. Kingsley, a copy of which was obtained by the Times, said the lockdown occurred as students were arriving for the day.

“We had been talking about this procedure with students and told them that this morning was a drill so they would not be scared,” the letter said. “Students were great and followed staff instructions the entire time.”

Grades five to 12, meanwhile, heard an announcement from their teachers indicating the lockdown resulted from “a stranger in the building” and that state police made sure the school was secure before classes resumed, according to the letter.

“I realize that our elementary children have older friends and relatives. They may hear from these people or the news, but I’d like you to decide how much or how little you want to share,” the principal wrote to parents.

Mrs. Kirnie said she believed the district’s procedures worked as they are supposed to, and she would rather err on the side of caution than take risks where safety is concerned.

“And I know the administrators agree, as do the troopers,” Mrs. Kirnie said.

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