Full story: Pot arrest raises school security concerns

Two men entered Middlesex Middle School and tried to sell marijuana to three students on Monday, April 8, according to Darien Police, breaching security procedures in place, including locked school doors, at the end of the school day. 

Nery Lopez, 31, of Deacon Street in Bridgeport, and Bryan Lopez, 23, of Bronx, N.Y., face marijuana distribution, trespassing and risk of injury to a minor charges after the men tried to sell pot to students between 11 and 13 in the Middlesex parking lot, police said.

The men had entered the school and told someone at the main office that they were lost and without money, police said. The two then left the building and began asking people for money in the school’s parking lot. While in the lot, they tried to sell marijuana to three students, police said.

Officers were called to the scene and found the men walking along Hollow Tree Ridge Road at 3 p.m. Police said they found four grams of pot on Bryan Lopez. Possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana is considered an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. Police said both men asked the kids if they wanted to buy any pot, which was in a single container.

There was no police presence at the school, according to Capt. Fred Komm, although police have stepped up their level of security at the schools since last year’s Newtown murders.

Sgt. Jeremiah Marron told The Darien Times that while he wasn’t familiar with all the details of how individuals were able to enter Middlesex, “we want to make sure that can’t happen.”

“There’s something that was not in place in the school for that to be allowed to happen, and that is what we are looking to prevent,” Marron said.

He said the incident at Middlesex was a “concern” and would be addressed on a schools security committee and on a department level. The committee was established following the school shooting last December in Newtown that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

In addition to Marron, committee members include Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello, Capt. Gary Pavia, Lt. Ray Osborne, Sgt. John Lawlor, Lt. Bill Duignan, Det. Sam Boccuzzi, Det. Mark Cappelli, and Officer James Palmieri, the student resource officer assigned to Darien High School.

Schools Superintendent Steve Falcone told The Darien Times the men entered the building and went to the main office after the school day was over.

“Doors are locked, but people can be buzzed in,” Falcone said. Following their suspicious behavior in the main office and in the parking lot, a teacher and administrator called the police who responded promptly.”

“This is a situation where we will debrief the situation with our police so we can review and update our practices and procedures. We have been and will continue to review our practices for security throughout the district,” Falcone said.

He added that the district is currently in the process of screening candidates for campus monitors.

Darien Police have heightened police prsesence by increasing patrol cars responsible for school areas, but also has increased the “park, walk and talks” done by officers.

The department has also begun a school liaison officer program similar to the SRO program at the high school at every school in town. Marron said two officers have been assigned to Middlesex.

“Without knowing exactly what took place, it is hard to comment, but it will be a priority for the committee, agency and school to make sure it won’t happen again,” Marron said.

A “group of officers have been selected to be assigned to every private and public school in town,” Marron said. “They’ve all had their introduction meetings.”

“The purpose behind the program is while they are working their shifts, they will stop in and meet with teachers, staff and kids,” he said.

The liaison officers can also assist with lockdown drills in schools. Marron said the program is a “pilot” so there isn’t any blueprint for it.

Marron also added that, since December, the police have reccomended that schools be locked all the time “to prevent situations from occurring such as this.”

“At this point it seems that different schools employ security measures at different levels,” Marron said. “Our goal is to gain the support of the Board of Education to really streamline security measures across the board so that every school is operating on the same level which we feel is based on best practices.

Darien Schools are off for spring break this week.

Both men arrested for the Middlesex incident were taken into custody and held in lieu of posting a $5,000 bond each. They were presented for arraignment on Tuesday, April 9.

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