No new concerns after K-9 search at West

The Cranston Herald ·

After the arrest of four students on weapons charges last week, a weekend check of student lockers at Cranston High School West using police dogs revealed no additional contraband or safety concerns, according to the superintendent of Cranston Public Schools.

“We felt as though the events of last week warranted this being done, for the safety of the kids, the concerns of the parents, and the safety of the staff who work in that building,” Jeannine Nota-Masse said Tuesday.

In a Monday email to parents, Nota-Masse wrote that officials could “confidently report that nothing was uncovered as a result of the K-9 sniff that requires any further action.” Cranston West administrators accompanied police during the search.

The message continues: “We remain ever vigilant in our work to maintain the safety and security of each of our schools. Throughout this entire event, Cranston Police worked collaboratively with Cranston Public Schools. You may notice an increased presence of the CPD, but again, we work with them daily to make sure children and their families feel safe.”

Police had elevated their presence at Cranston West last week after three students were arrested on multiple weapons charges.

On Sept. 27, a judge remanded the three male juveniles – ages 14, 15 and 16 – to the Training School for Youth until their arraignment in Family Court, which had been scheduled for the morning of Sept. 28.

Then, on Sept. 30, police announced another student, age 15, had been arrested. That student was alleged to be “associated” with the three students arrested previously, Chief of Police Michael Winquist said in a statement, and is said to have at one point kept one of the weapons involved in the earlier incident in his locker.

In a statement issued late on the evening of Sept. 27, police said they began an investigation after School Resource Officer Derek DiMeo “received information that a juvenile was in possession of a handgun” during an after-hours athletic event on school grounds.

The investigation is said to have found one of the juveniles involved had taken two handguns and ammunition from a family member’s home and traded one of the weapons to another juvenile in exchange for a jacket.

After that transaction, police say the juvenile who obtained the weapon brought it to the athletic event, where he met two other students. Two of the students are said to have then gone into a wooded area off school grounds and taken turns firing the weapon before returning to the athletic event.

The weapons were seized at the residence of one of the students on Sept. 27. Police additionally said Cranston West officials found one of the juveniles involved to be in possession of a stun gun, which was seized and turned over to the school resource officer.

The fourth arrested resulted after additional information was brought to the attention of the school resource officer and school administrators on the morning of Sept. 30. The fourth student is said to have stored a handgun in his locker on Sept. 26, and according to Winquist, “based on the description of the firearm observed in the locker … it is believed the aforementioned handgun is the same gun seized by officers [on Sept. 27].”

In a statement last week, Winquist indicated there was “no evidence that the students intended to harm any other students or faculty members.”

“The safety of all students and faculty is of the highest priority and the expedient resolution to this incident is a tribute to the open communication within the school community and immediate response by investigators,” he said.

Nota-Masse on Tuesday said officials reacted “as quickly as possible and as responsibly as possible” as the situation unfolded, balancing the responsibility to keep parents and community members informed with the need to protect the rights of the minors involved.

“From what I’m hearing and from what [Cranston West Principal Thomas] Barbieri is hearing, parents are reassured,” she said. “The system worked.”

The 14-year-old juvenile was charged with counts of possession of ammunition by a minor; possession of a firearm by a minor; carrying a pistol without a permit or license; firing in a compact area; and possession of firearms on school grounds.

The 16-year-old juvenile was charged with possession of ammunition by a minor; possession of a firearm by a minor; carrying a pistol without a permit or license; firing in a compact area; and possessing prohibited weapons other than firearms.

The 15-year-old juvenile arrested following the initial incident was charged with counts of sale, transfer or delivery of firearms to minors; sale, transfer or delivery of ammunition to minors; possession of ammunition by a minor; possession of a firearm by a minor; carrying a pistol without a permit or license; and possession of a stolen firearm.

The fourth juvenile arrested, also 15, was due to appear in Family Court and is charged with possession of a firearm on school grounds, possession of a firearm by a minor, and carrying a pistol without a permit or license.

“I am pleased with the response of the school administration and Cranston Police Department. The school resource officer working in close cooperation with school officials identified the students involved in this incident and acted swiftly to ensure the safety of all students and faculty. We will provide the necessary support to ensure that Cranston schools will continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children’s education,” Mayor Allan Fung said through a statement last week.

“Cranston Public Schools is grateful to the administrators at CHSW, SRO DiMeo and the members of the Cranston Police who worked together to thoroughly investigate this situation. I commend those who shared this information with our administrators, so we were able to act quickly. Student and staff safety is paramount to us at all times. We will continue to work collaboratively with the Cranston Police, in all matters involving the safety of our schools, students and staff,” Nota-Masse said through the same statement last week.

This story was originally posted by The Cranston Herald. Click here to view the original story in its entirety.

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