Volume 18 • Issue 44 | March 17 - 23, 2006

BB gun shooting at I.S. 89 pelts students, stuns parents

By Ronda Kaysen and Alex Schmidt

A BB gun shooting at a Battery Park City middle school left two students with welts and several parents rattled last Friday.

As students arrived at I.S. 89 at 8:20 a.m. on March 10, two I.S. 89 students fired a pellet gun at fellow school children as they headed up the stairs. Two children were struck. The injured students were taken to the nurse’s office, who “determined that their wounds were not serious,” according to a letter circulated to I.S. 89 parents by principal Ellen Foote. The pellets did not break the skin, according to parents who attended an informational session about the incident this week.

“I am, of course, distraught that such an incident occurred but so very grateful that circumstances were what they were and no one was seriously injured,” Foote wrote in the letter.

The two suspects are 12- and 14-year-old I.S. 89 students and will be charged as minors with intentional felony assault in family court, according to First Precinct crime prevention officer Joseph Bellomo. The names of the shooters and the victims were not released because they are all are minors.

The students were also suspended “and will not be returning to I.S. 89,” according to a letter sent to P.S. 89 parents by principal Ronnie Najjar. P.S. 89 shares the same building on Warren and West Sts. as I.S. 89.

At least one of the suspects was involved in a BB gun incident the previous Wednesday, March 8, according to police. In that incident, which was not initially reported to the police, one person was hit. The suspect will be charged with one count of an unintentional misdemeanor.

“The first incident was recklessly playing with a BB gun as a joke,” said Bellomo. “Then on Friday, apparently they got a bit more mischievous and they started shooting people in the school.”

I.S. 89 officials moved swiftly on Friday to investigate the shooting, calling the school safety sergeant, based at nearby Stuyvesant High School. The sergeant contacted the First Precinct and the paramedics. The school also contacted Region 9 and the head of school safety was dispatched to the school. Throughout the day, various I.S. 89 students who witnessed the incident were interviewed and their parents contacted. The students remained inside during lunch to accommodate the questioning.

“I trust the administration to handle it. I think they’re smart,” said I.S. 89 parent Michele Herman.

Rumors, however, spread anyway, reaching as far as P.S. 234, a Tribeca elementary school on Warren and Greenwich Sts. “Because there was a vacuum of information, people tended to fill in the holes with rumors,” said Foote in the letter.

Neither Foote nor Najjar returned calls for comment for this story.

“One thing is for certain, there isn’t a parent that isn’t discussing it in the community,” said P.S. 89 parent Tom Goodkind.
Some parents expressed concern that the incident could affect the school’s reputation. “This is a very well run school and I would hate to see the school subjected to wild rumors,” said I.S. 89 parent Charles Frederick. “A thing like this can be sensationalized.”

On Monday, both Foote and Najjar sent letters to parents discussing the incident and on Tuesday morning the principals held a joint school forum with representatives from Region 9 and school guidance counselors.

“We had very good support from the city,” said I.S. 89 P.T.A. co-president Joan McCabe of the meeting, which she said lasted two hours and involved a few hundred parents. “I thought they handled it very well.”

Most parents that Downtown Express spoke with for this story took the incident in stride, and expressed relief that the injuries were minor and the suspects would not be returning to the school. “This is New York City, it’s not Cupcake, Iowa,” said Frederick. “If anything, it’s more likely that a few more things like this would take place.”


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