BARNEGAT – Township officials honored eight officers at their November meeting, acknowledging their response to the recent active shooter threat at Barnegat High School.
The governing body’s praise for the local law enforcement members included revelation of some chilling details concerning the danger believed to be a reality based on the initial call.
“On October 14, the Barnegat Police Department received an active shooting in progress at Barnegat High School,” said Committeeman Joe Marte. “The caller reported to dispatchers that shots had been fired and gave a description of victims, as well as specific locations in the school where the shooting was occurring.”
Marte singled out officers Mike Moore, Ed Hayes, Rich Carr, John Holiday, Detective William Hendrick, Lt. Jeff Ryan and Lt. Andrew Parsley, all who first appeared on the scene.
“They responded without hesitation and entered the school with a single purpose,” Marte shared. “Gauging the threat and ensuring the safety of all students, staffs and visitors.”
Patrolman Kris Burke was off duty when the call came in but was also recognized by officials for immediately responding to the scene to provide additional support.
According to Marte, Parsley did an outstanding job of assuming command, and leading and coordinating the significant public safety response.
The officers all took part in securing classrooms as well as the eventual evacuation of the occupants of the school. Marte said the actions were completed in a systematic and controlled manner.
“Our report was that a shooting was going on,” confirmed Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain. “We were told there were victims and exactly what the victims looked like.”
Just about all of the officers honored at the Township Committee’s meeting have school-aged children in either elementary or middle school. However, Ryan is the proud father of both a sophomore and senior student at Barnegat High School.
Ryan said that when the call came over the radio, he immediately reacted based on the training the local department provides to its officers.
“Your training kicks in when you get a call like this,” Ryan explained. “The only thing I thought about was stopping the threat.”
The Barnegat Police Department and the school district follow the ALICE protocol, which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.” Students have all been trained to follow procedures and police instructions.
“As you’re clearing the rooms looking for the suspect, you’re scanning quickly,” said Ryan. “You’ve got all the kids protecting themselves following the ALICE protocol. You don’t really recognize faces of the kids as it’s all done fast.”
Once Barnegat Police determined the call was actually a hoax, Ryan had the time to collect his thoughts.
“Of course, I knew my kids were in the school,” Ryan shared. “Later, I wondered if either of them was any of the rooms when I went through them.”
Authorities subsequently learned that Barnegat was one of several school districts to receive the hoax calls, often referred to as swatting incidents. In Ocean County alone, the active shooter prank calls disrupted classes in Barnegat, Jackson and Toms River schools.