Mass. Officer Accidentally Fires Gun During Swatting Incident at St. John’s Prep

Local police originally responded to the report of an active threat but the accidental discharge led to a larger law enforcement response.

Mass. Officer Accidentally Fires Gun During Swatting Incident at St. John’s Prep

Photo: Win Nondakowit, Adobe Stock

UPDATE: Town officials said an 11-year veteran police officer who accidentally discharged his firearm during a swatting incident did so while he was holstering his firearm after sweeping a bathroom.

According to a statement from the Town of Danvers Office of the Town Manager, the first arriving officers — two school resource officers, a patrol officer and the detective — arrived on campus less than two minutes after being dispatched. Three of the officers entered the bathroom while the fourth stayed in the hallway.

As the three officers were exiting the bathroom, the detective, identified as Christopher Gaffney, began holstering his gun when a “secondary piece of equipment interfered with the holstering process, resulting in a single shot being discharged and striking the bathroom tile floor next to the officer’s foot.”

After the gun went off, several people called 911, leading to a larger law enforcement response.

State police are preparing a ballistics report to supplement the report submitted by Gaffney, reports NBC Boston. Gaffney has been part of the Danvers police criminal investigation division for almost four years.


ORIGINAL ARTICLE – May 24, 2023

DANVERS, Mass. — A police officer responding to an incident later determined to be a swatting threat at a Massachusetts school accidentally fired his service weapon, triggering a larger law enforcement response.

During a press conference, Chief James P. Lovell said Danvers Police initially responded to St. John’s Preparatory School, an all-male Catholic school serving grades 6-12, after receiving a report that someone “was threatening to cause harm” in a bathroom at Brother Benjamin Hall, reports Boston.com. An unnamed Danvers Police officer entered the bathroom and accidentally fired his weapon. No one else was in the bathroom but several people inside the hall at the time of the accidental discharge called 911, elevating the situation from a typical swatting response to an actual active shooter response.

“Our initial response was a small response of our patrol force. Due to the accidental discharge, that’s what really kind of ramped up the response,” said Lovell. “Typically we would have probably just kept our patrol force investigating initially, but when we had that report we didn’t know where it happened originally or how it occurred so we had a large response.”

Dozens of Massachusetts State Police (MSP) troopers and Danvers Police officers responded just before 2 p.m. The school entered an “enhanced lockdown protocol” as officers continued to sweep the 175-acre campus. No threats were identified.

As each room was given the all-clear, students were evacuated outside to a tent that had been used for the school’s commencement on Saturday. Students were then bussed to a nearby Stop & Shop parking lot where a reunification area was set up for parents.

Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, MSP issued its “final update,” stating the threat “has been confirmed to be a hoax.” Authorities are working to identify who made the swatting call and to determine why the officer’s gun went off.

St. John’s announced Monday night that classes would be canceled Tuesday but resume Wednesday. School counselors will be available for students and staff.

Boston College High School, another all-male Catholic prep school near Boston, confirmed it also received a similar call around the same time, a school spokesperson told WBZ-TV. Two weeks ago, a similar hoax threat was investigated at St. John’s of Shrewsbury.

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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