A “pressure cooker type device” was found in the area of Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden Thursday morning, soon before school was scheduled to start for the day, and the school was in a shelter-in-place until the state police bomb squad detonated the device.
Police said they responded just before 8 a.m. after receiving a call reporting something concerning in the area and they found the item less than a block away from the school.
During a news conference around 11 a.m., officials revealed that the item found was a “pressure cooker” type device.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said all students and staff in the school are safe and he commended the school resource officer, who was the first at the scene.
"Once that was identified, he worked closely with school officials to make sure our students were never put in harm's way. This was done appropriately. This was done in such a way that, unfortunately, we had to experience this morning and this couldn't have been possible without the swift action of our officers, the police department, the state police and of course the board of education," Scarpati said.
Some parents expressed frustration about when they were notified. Others said they thought it was handled well.
Sgt. Christopher Fry, of the Meriden Police Department, said he knew there were some concerns about the way the response was handled, between the board of education and the police department.
“Underlying with the protocols that were undertaken, that there’s no injuries here today, the threat has been eliminated and safety has and always will be at the forefront on our minds,” Fry said.
Supt. Mark Benigni addressed why students were allowed in the school amid the investigation.
He said they were notified around 8:20 a.m., around 25 minutes before the school day was scheduled to begin when the buses were already on their routes.
“We then followed the lead of the Meriden Police Department, the Connecticut Police Department, as well as an FBI agent who was on site as well,” Benigni said.
Meriden Police Chief Jeffry Cossette said state police determine the safety perimeter.
“So at that point, we determined that school was safe,” said Cossette, who added that everything worked the way it was supposed to work and students were never in danger.
Benigni said turning around buses is not that simple and they wanted to avoid total chaos in the area.
He said they determined the best thing would be to use an alternate entry to the school on Charles Street.
“We also made sure students were never put in the area of concern in the building,” he said.
He added that they sent an alert to parents.
“I understand their concern, frustration. I can assure them that we’ll always follow the lead of our safety experts and we do all we can to assure safety. I couldn’t be more impressed with our students and staff today. They did a terrific job in the building,” Benigni added.
The superintendent also said the school was notified before the item was detonated that the state police planned to create a bang so students could be prepared for the loud noise outside.
Editor's note: Police said earlier that they received the call around 7 a.m., but now say it was around 8 a.m.