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School Goes on Lockdown, Then the Surprising Arrest

Biology teacher in Massachusetts accused of planting ammo, then calling it in
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2019 10:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – An all-too familiar scene unfolded at Southbridge High School in Massachusetts Thursday morning when the school went on lockdown. This case would prove unusual, however: Hours after the discovery of live ammo, police said they'd found the surprise culprit—the very teacher who called in the scare. The details surrounding the incident:

  • The teacher: Police say biology teacher Alfred J. Purcell, 57, informed school officials about 8am that he had discovered a live round of 9mm ammunition in a stairwell, reports CNN. The school immediately went on lockdown.
  • The video: School staff looked at video during the lockdown and noticed a strange thing: The video shows Purcell remove the ammo from his pocket, drop it on the ground, leave, then return 10 minutes later to take a photo and call in the "discovery" on a school radio, say police, per WCVB. (That video can seen in this report.)

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  • A maybe confession: Police say Purcell confessed to planting the ammo because he wanted to prove the need for metal detectors at the school, reports WBZ. They say he cited an incident earlier in the week he felt was handled improperly, when a student showed up with spent ammunition he said he'd found at a former shooting range. However, Purcell's attorney later said that his client had not planted the ammo, calling the idea of a confession a misunderstanding.
  • More trouble: A search of Purcell's car turned up 102 live rounds of shotgun ammunition in his trunk. He is charged with unlawful possession of ammunition, carrying ammunition on school grounds, disturbing a school assembly, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace. Police also say they detected the "faint odor" of alcohol on his breath, but Purcell denied drinking, per MassLive.
  • Was losing job: Prior to Thursday, the school had informed Purcell that his contract would not be renewed, says Southbridge Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Villar. "This individual acted in a disgusting manner," Villar said of Thursday's incident. "I feel very badly for our students because it's an adult who's failed them."
(Read more schools stories.)

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