Erroneous text created confusion about Saint Elizabeth lockdown
🔴 Two colleges, a public school district, and a private school in Morris County went into lockdown Tuesday
🔴 Saint Elizabeth University inadvertently sent an incorrect message about an active shooter
🔴 Saint Elizabeth and Farleigh Dickenson lifted their lockdowns five hours later
FLORHAM PARK — An incorrect text message heightened anxiety and confusion about why several schools and colleges went on lockdown and service was suspended on a portion of NJ Transit's Morris & Essex Line Tuesday.
Saint Elizabeth University, Saint Elizabeth high school, Farleigh Dickinson University and Madison public schools all went on shelter-in-place status around 10:30 a.m. after an individual walking near NJ Transit’s Covent Station reported that a man made a threat of violence and was potentially armed, according to Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll.
"Saint Elizabeth's University inadvertently broadcast a text message to their community that an active shooter was on campus. This information was not accurate as there was never an indication or evidence of an active shooter event ongoing," Florham Park Police Chief Joseph Orlando wrote in a message on the department Facebook page.
No threat to Madison Public Schools
Orlando said that he told Madison public school Superintendent Mark Schwarz there was no threat to the community. The district's shelter-in-place was lifted around noon.
"I advised there was no reason for the public schools to shelter in place or lockdown as there were no perceived or real threats to our district," Orlando wrote, adding that police presence at the schools was increased out of an abundance of caution.
Service resumed on the Morris & Essex Line between Morristown and Madison around 1 p.m.
Following a building-by-building response at Saint Elizabeth University, police did not identify anyone matching the description of the person at the train station. The remaining lockdowns were lifted around 3:30 p.m.
Rider University swatting incident under investigation
Tuesday's incident was the second lockdown over a threat of violence in two days after what turned out to be a swatting incident at Rider University in Lawrenceville. The school went into a shelter-in-place mode for nearly an hour when Lawrence police and Rider University Public Safety searched the campus.
The campus newspaper The Rider News reported many students were anxious, and distressed with some crying as they took hid under beds and desks. Photos show furniture pushed up against some classroom doors.
The school has created a team that will review "every aspect" of the situation and make recommendations for future incidents.
"Safety is a top priority at Rider and we are confident in the current safeguards and plans in place to keep our campus a safe place to live, work and learn. But unfortunately, we must accept that these types of incidents are a new reality and most likely will continue to occur in the world we live in," Rider president Gregory G. Dell’Omo said in an email to the campus community.
Lawrence police chief Christoper Longo told New Jersey 101.5 the investigation into the swatting incident is ongoing.
“The Investigative division is working in conjunction with state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify potential suspect(s) responsible for this incident. The investigation is ongoing at this time," Longo said.
The chief asked anyone with information about the incident to contact the Investigative Division at 609-844-7107.