Alleged intruder charged after triggering 2-hour shelter-in-place at Montville High School
A 19-year-old Bloomfield man who allegedly entered Montville High School without authorization and then claimed to be a student told police that he wanted to "feel normal" and have a "true high school experience," prosecutors said Friday.
Charles Banaciski III entered the school around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning, wandered its halls for about 30 minutes while taking photos and videos and then fled after a teacher confronted him, authorities said. The intrusion triggered a 2-hour shelter-in-place at the school once students and teachers arrived, as police checked the building for safety.
Banaciski was arrested later in the day at his father's home.
During an online court hearing Friday, prosecutors said Banaciski took pictures in the cafeteria, bathrooms, lockers and teacher's lounge before he was stopped by the teacher.
Questioned about his motives, Banaciski told police he wanted to go to a high school since he had never had such an experience himself, Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Kelly said. Brittany Calzone, the Bloomfield man's defense attorney, said her client was raised by his grandmother, who had taken him out of high school before he was able to graduate.
The intrusion followed just days after a 29-year-old woman was arrested for allegedly posing as a student at New Brunswick High School. Hyejeong Shin spent four days at the school, befriending students and asking them to meet with her off campus, police said. A motive hasn't been revealed so far.
Judge questions security at Montville High
During Friday's hearing, Municipal Court Judge James Sloan questioned why the doors of the school were unlocked at 6:30, stating that it was "disturbing" Banaciski was able to enter the school. The school may need to reassess security measures, he said.
In an emailed statement on Friday, Montville Superintendent Thomas Gorman said there were "measures in place to ensure the safety of the students and staff. The immediacy to which this individual was found speaks to this. Security is a top priority. The procedures are drilled monthly and reinforced daily."
Gorman emphasized that the intruder entered and exited the building before the start of the school day and "minutes before" a Special Law Enforcement Officer was due to arrive on campus. The email did not explain, however, how Banaciski was able to get inside.
"The SLEO was alerted and law enforcement was brought in quickly," Gorman continued. "The district has a meeting with the police next week to discuss this incident and what could be handled differently in the future. It is unfortunate that we live in a time that we need to be on high alert but I am proud of how the students, staff, and police handled the situation."
Alleged intruder released
Sloan agreed to release Banaciski from the Morris County jail pending future court hearings under the condition he avoid contact with any schools and abstain from alcohol and drugs. He was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and to abide by a 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. curfew, set to allow him to continue working as a DoorDash delivery driver.
He was charged with unlicensed entry into a structure, a fourth-degree crime, according to a statement by the prosecutor's Office and Montville Police Chief Andrew Caggiano.
Caggiano said the student body was ordered to shelter-in-place "as a precaution" until the building was cleared by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit. "There was no threat to students or staff," he said.
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County Prosecutor Robert Carroll praised the responding officers and especially the school employee "who followed their gut instinct and questioned the suspicious individual."
"This swift arrest is the result of attentive staff and a rapid report to law enforcement," he said. "May this incident be a reminder to the public that to keep our schools as secure as they can be, law enforcement also needs the assistance of vigilant members of the community. It is critical for the public to report any and all suspicious activity.”
Authorities seek information
Authorities asked anyone with more information about the Montville incident to call the township police department at 973-257-4300, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-6300 or Morris County Crime Stoppers at 800-743-7433. Reports to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous.
Prosecutors sought to keep Banaciski on home detention with an electronic monitor, but the request was denied by Judge Sloan, who pointed to Banaciski's lack of a prior criminal record.
Guns that were found in a locker in Banaciski's father's home were seized as part of the investigation, but prosecutors said the firearms were not involved in the trip to Montville High.
Correction: A previous version of this story referred incorrectly to Montville High School's response to the unauthorized entry. The school instructed students and teachers to shelter in place but did not order a lockdown.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Montville NJ High School intruder charged after claiming to be student