WILLINGBORO, N.J. - June 7, 2007 - A student armed with scissors was shot and critically wounded by a police officer Thursday outside a school for children with emotional or behavioral disorders.
The shooting at the Garfield Park Academy occurred just before 4 p.m., Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said.
Willingboro police responded to the K-12 school after several 911 callers reported that an "out of control" male student was using scissors to threaten staffers in the school office, Bernardi said. Subsequent callers reported that the student had left the office and was in the front hall of the school, still armed with the scissors and threatening students and teachers.
When police arrived, they found the student outside the school and saw he was holding two pairs of scissors. While trying to talk with him, the officers repeatedly told the boy to drop the scissors, but he refused to comply.
The student continued to act in an aggressive manner, Bernardi said, and his actions toward one of the officers - Sgt. William Smith, a 19-year veteran of the force - resulted in Smith firing two shots.
The boy was struck once in the chest and once in the abdomen. He was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was listed in critical but stable condition Thursday night. Authorities would not identify the boy or provide further details about him, including his age.
No other injuries were reported in the incident.
Gregory Rucker, Willingboro's acting police director, said Smith was put on administrative leave, which is standard procedure following a police-involved shooting. The incident was being investigated by the county Prosecutor's office and the Willingboro Detective Bureau.
For so many reasons, this story makes me so sad. What in the wide, wide world of sports has happened to my hometown? Willingboro has been on the decline for years and years. There's tons of reasons but I still can't help but remember when Garfield Park Academy used to be Garfield Park Elementary School. I have great memories there. I had my first crush there. There were great teachers and they really cared about the well-being of the students. The school board meetings were televised and were somewhat comical because of all of the in-fighting. That didn't really mean much at the time. It was always just a given.
There was the Pool Program that was the highlight of our summer. We stayed at the pool from morning until night. We were there at 8 in the morning for swim team practice and left to go home for dinner and back until 8 that night. The lifeguards were our "idols". We had Swimming meets on Saturday mornings and met up with the team (including the coaches) at the local Mc Donald's. The parks were safe. They had Recreation Programs during the summer. We would have our annual block picnics there. Good times.
There was a real sense of community here. Parents felt safe to let their kids out to play and everyone knew everyone. If you got into trouble and another parent caught you, you could be assured that your respective parent would find out about it. The town had it's share of problems and our house even was broken into once. (We were inside at the time... creepy...) That wasn't the norm though.
The only time that I was ever involved with the police was because of the many speeding tickets that my beloved received. (He was pulled over in front of our house as he was picking me up for our first date.) We were married at Corpus Christi church in Willingboro. I had gone there forever and it was sentimental for me to start our life together here. I even had my first teaching position in Willingboro. I was working with former teachers of mine who insisted that I call them by their first name as we were now colleagues. I could never bring myself to do it.
I knew things had changed drastically when I went back many years later to attend a funeral for one of our neighbors. These fools had filled in my beloved pool! Kids would have nowhere to go in the summer. As we all know, bored kids can be dangerous kids.
So I hear about this story and I am sad on so many levels. This was my beloved school in my beloved town. (It wasn't always like this!) I don't know what exactly happened but I wonder why the policeman had to shoot the kid because he had scissors. The cause/effect don't really add up to me.
I do wonder why this school has to have an almost constant police presence in the first place. How did it get so out of control? Shouldn't there be some type of investigation into the policies of Garfield Park Academy? If people are mad, they have cause.
I am mad and sad because my hometown is gone...