In Wake of 2018 Stabbings, New Rochelle Officials Suppressed Gun Threat Investigation of Students from Mount Vernon, Yonkers Enrolled in New Rochelle Schools

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson warned school officials last February that if a then-ongoing police investigation “came to light” it would create “another narrative and explanatory challenge” similar to what had occurred when New Rochelle police revealed that Z’inah Brown was residing in Yonkers at the time she was alleged to have murdered a New Rochelle High School classmate a month earlier.

It almost worked.

The matter finally did come to light last week after Talk of the Sound received emails sent by Bramson to Relkin obtained under a FOIL request which was part of an unrelated investigation. Talk of the Sound then made additional FOIL requests to the New Rochelle Police Department and the Yonkers Police Department.

Bramson’s warning came within minutes of his first learning that New Rochelle police were made aware of a Yonkers PD investigation into a report that three students residing in Mount Vernon and Yonkers but enrolled at New Rochelle elementary schools had threatened to bring a gun to school.

Bramson shared an email from Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller with then-Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and then-New Rochelle Board of Education President Rachel Relkin. The Yonkers PD report came in the weeks immediately following an outbreak of unprecedented school violence involving New Rochelle High School students in January 2018.

“Note also the residency of the students,” wrote Bramson to Osborne and Relkin. While acknowledging the placement of students from Mount Vernon and Yonkers in New Rochelle schools might be legal, Bramson went on to express his fear that the residency issues in the Yonkers PD case would fuel existing concerns about wrongly-enrolled students in the City School District of New Rochelle.

According to a yellow school bus driver from Phoenix Bus Corp., three elementary school students were talking on the bus on Friday February 16th, 2018 about plans to bring a gun to school after the February break. The bus driver initially recalled the incident had occurred in Yonkers so a report was made to Yonkers PD. The information was provided by YPD to the New Rochelle Police Department; NRPD youth officer Detective Ray Andolina provided the information to New Rochelle School Security Director Bruce Daniele.

The driver from Phoenix Bus Corp. is described in police reports as driving “a bus that picks up students from other jurisdictions (low income/homeless) and drops them off to New Rochelle schools.” The supervisor of Phoenix Bus Corp, confirmed the residences of the three students as outside New Rochelle, according to police records.

On the afternoon of February 21, 2018, Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller notified City Manager Charles Strome and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson in an email that the New Rochelle Police Department was working with Yonkers PD on “a threats investigation involving three New Rochelle elementary school students, ages 10, 7, and 7.” Based on police records obtained by Talk of the Sound under a Freedom of Information request, two of the students were enrolled in Jefferson Elementary School and one was enrolled in Columbus Elementary School, two of the students were boys, one was a girl.

“From what we’ve been informed the students were overheard by a school bus driver on 2/16 talking about Bringing a gun to school when school reopens after the break,” reported Schaller. “The students reside in Yonkers and Mt. Vernon; the event occurred in Yonkers; and Yonkers PD is investigating the incident. Det. Andolina is working with the Yonkers PD on the investigation. School District Security has been notified and is also assisting.”

Schaller warned against “further disclosure” unless a “specific inquiry” was made in which case the NRPD would “confirm that school authorities have been notified and that we are working with Yonkers PD on their investigation.”

Within 10 minutes, Bramson forwarded a copy of the email to then-Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and then-New Rochelle Board of Education President Rachel Relkin.

Bramson dismissed the threat as “childish chatter” rather than a genuine threat but called it “horrifying” nonetheless.

Bramson was especially concerned that the residency of the three students might become known and feed the existing narrative that violent students from outside New Rochelle were attending New Rochelle public schools. Z’inah Brown, the teen charged with the murder of Valaree Schwab, was reported to be living in Yonkers at the time of the murder. Although Brown was legally entitled under Federal law to attend school in New Rochelle, her residency in Yonkers set off a firestorm of controversy which prompted the District-wide residency verification program currently underway in New Rochelle.

In a follow-up interview with Yonkers PD, the driver recalled the incident occurred near the Home Depot in New Rochelle, not Yonkers, so the matter was referred back to New Rochelle PD. Columbus Principal Michael Galland stated in an email to Bruce Daniele that school staff had determined there were no guns in the home, that the youngsters were referring to orange toys guns they had received as Christmas presents. Daniele advised Detective Andolina that school officials deemed the three students not to be a threat at which point NRPD closed their investigation.

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