Police: ‘Accidental discharge’ of officer’s gun prompted huge emergency response at St. John’s Prep

St. John’s Prep student David Kane was sitting in math class on Monday when suddenly, over the school announcements, students were told there were reports of an active shooter on campus.

“She just sounded very shaky and scared and that was kind of it, so we just barricaded the classroom door,” Kane said of the next steps students and school staff took to stay safe.

However, there were no threats identified after several sweeps of St. John’s Prep in Danvers amid an investigation into a report of a person with a gun on campus Monday, authorities said.

Danvers Police and the school’s superintendent gave an update just after 4 p.m. saying an officer’s gun accidentally went off which elevated the situation from a swatting response to an actual active shooter situation.

“We are aware of reports of a single, accidental discharge of a firearm by a responding Danvers officer,” state police said.

Local and state police descended upon the school on Spring Street shortly before 2 p.m. and immediately ordered students and staff to shelter in place.

“Several dozen troopers and Danvers police responded to St. John’s Prep for a report of a person with a gun at the school. Immediate entry was made and no threats were identified at this time,” state police said in a tweet.

Kane, the student, described a harrowing scene when, upon learning of the initial reports of an active shooter, students and faculty immediately took cover, fearing for their lives.

“We knew to barricade the door and kind of hide in the corner, (not near any) windows, draw the shades,” Kane said.

Student Dylan Aliberti said he wasn’t really worried until he saw a police officer “run by my class with my dean, so that got my heart racing.”

Aliberti said he was “texting with my parents the whole time, just keeping them updated as often as I could.”

“I basically said, ‘Love you guys’ and ‘I’m sure everything is going to be fine.’ I just tried to get them not to worry much,” Aliberti said.

Law enforcement teams conducted secondary sweeps and worked to clear one building at a time. There were no reported injuries.

“Teams still conducting sweeps, still no evidence of a gunman or any threat located,” state police said.

Students have since been cleared out of buildings. Some students who fled the school on their own were directed to the Stop & Shop on Newbury Street to be picked up by their parents.

“It’s a tough thing to go through as a parent, but we were really impressed with the way the school handled it and the response from law enforcement,” Bill Kane said.

In an initial statement, St. John’s Prep said, “There has been a report of an active shooter on campus at Benjamin Hall. Danvers and state police are on site. Students, faculty, and staff are sheltering in place. We will further provide updates as soon as possible.”

Students said those initial minutes of the shelter-in-place were the most frightening.

“It was a teacher who came in from the opposite classroom, who came in and told my teacher to lock down, and then immediately everybody shut the door, locked the door, started barricading stuff,” said student Colt Sullivan. “The first 10 or 15 minutes were actually the scariest because we had the least amount of information at this point.”

Benjamin Hall is home to middle school students, labs, and a dining hall.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m., educators announced that they believe the school was the victim of a swatting call.

“We believe that St. John’s was the victim of a swatting call. Everyone is safe. There have been no injuries and police are currently clearing campus buildings as we account for all the students,” school officials said.

There continued to be a heavy police presence at the school and surrounding streets into Monday evening. Video from the scene showed cruisers from multiple departments, officers with rifles, and K9 teams gathered outside.

“The swift and professional response from the Danvers Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, and our regional public safety partners to this potentially tragic situation made it possible clear the large campus in less than one hour. Our deepest gratitude to area agencies for their response. We also commend the St. John’s Prep administration for their composure and cooperation as the situation unfolded. Their leadership in the face of chaos made a difference,” said Danvers town officials in a statement.

The size of the school is 175 acres with approximately nine buildings and numerous athletic fields, along with a student and faculty population of more than 1,500 people.

No classes at St. John’s Prep Tuesday, school will resume Wednesday, spokesperson Chad Konecky confirms.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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