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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York

Two teens arrested following Colton-Pierrepont rifle scare


COLTON — Armed with a rifle, Sawyer M. Pignona allegedly headed to the Colton-Pierrepont Central School parking lot Monday afternoon “to scope it out for a fight.”

Instead, state police said, the Hannawa Falls teenager brandished the weapon from a car window, causing a panic that sent the school into lockdown and landing himself behind bars.

Troopers charged Mr. Pignona, 16, with a felony count of criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, state police Investigator Christopher M. Nye said. A friend who allegedly drove Mr. Pignona to the school, Connor I. Warden, 17, of Potsdam, also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Troopers are aware of reports of a possible Facebook feud involving students from Colton-Pierrepont and other districts, and are looking into the matter.

“I know there was a spat,” Mr. Nye said, adding that Mr. Pignona, a Potsdam Central School student, may have “taken it to the next level.”

The teens were arrested separately Monday, and both were arraigned in Colton Town Court. Mr. Pignona was committed to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, in lieu of $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond. Mr. Warden was released on $5,000 bail, Mr. Nye said.

Mr. Warden told troopers that he drove the armed Mr. Pignona to the school at about 3:50 p.m., according to court documents.

“We left Sawyer’s house and he told me that we were going to a parking lot to scope it out for a fight,” Mr. Warden said in a police deposition.

“Before we left Sawyer’s house he grabbed a long gun from his house and two red bandannas,” Mr. Warden said. “Sawyer told me where to go and we ended up at Colton school.”

There, Mr. Warden said, they pulled into a back lot and “observed three kids in the back of the school.” Mr. Pignona opened the passenger side window and stuck the gun out, Mr. Warden told troopers, although he said he was not sure whether Mr. Pignona actually aimed it at the youths. Mr. Warden said that Mr. Pignona told him the gun was not loaded.

A teacher, James A. Nee, told troopers in his deposition that he was coaching lacrosse when he saw a vehicle approaching at about 4 p.m. He waved his hands and walked toward the car to tell the driver that practice was under way in the lot.

The vehicle turned and backed away, but then Mr. Nee “noticed that the passenger rolled his window down and thrust out what appeared to be a rifle.” “The passenger held it out the window and was shaking it while saying what sounded like ‘whoo hoo,’” before driving away, Mr. Nee told state police.

All students were then brought into the building and all doors were locked, Colton-Pierrepont Central School Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash wrote in a statement posted on the district’s Facebook page and website. “Once the police arrived to secure the premises, parents were called to pick up students and after-school activities were cancelled.”

The incident was reported to state police at 4:16 p.m.

“I turned to usher the other kids that were still outside to go inside,” Mr. Nee told troopers. “All the while I was hoping that the passenger was not going to fire any rounds in my direction.”

Mr. Warden told police that he and Mr. Pignona then “went back to Sawyer’s house and hung out for a while.”

“On the way back, I asked Sawyer why he pointed the gun out the window, and he told me that it does not matter,” Mr. Warden said.

Mr. Kardash, in a Facebook posting, said school officials have remained in contact with police since the incident. “We have requested additional police presence throughout the day tomorrow and as long as possible in an attempt to restore the feeling of security and safety,” he wrote on the district’s Facebook page.

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