Ingredients used in incendiary devices were found at the home of a sophomore at Walter Panas High School Friday morning after a two-hour search in the school that caused an emergency evacuation of students and staff.
Westchester County Police, which led the investigation that included bomb sniffing dogs and the bomb squad, confirmed some comments made on social media relating to explosive materials belonging to the unidentified student, who is on the football and wrestling teams at Panas, triggered the large law enforcement presence and closed campus.
However, Kieran O’Leary, a Westchester County Police spokesperson, stressed Monday nothing was found in the student’s locker and no direct threats were made to the school.
“As caution we had the school evacuated,” O’Leary said. “There was nothing in his locker that wouldn’t normally be in a student’s locker.”
O’Leary explained police also erred on the side of caution since the student did not attend school on Friday. He was later located at his home on Winthrop Drive in Cortlandt, where water bottles filled with powder from fireworks and fuses were reportedly discovered, along with napalm, a mixture of a thickening/gelling agent and petroleum or a similar fuel. Police declined to reveal what evidence they recovered.
The student, who is under 16, was charged with juvenile delinquency and will have to appear in Westchester County Family Court. O’Leary said if the student were an adult he would have been facing criminal charges. An investigation is continuing.
Lakeland Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Stone posted on the district’s website that Westchester County Police requested Panas be evacuated as part of an “off-campus investigation.”
“At no time were students or staff in danger. The investigation was done as a precautionary measure by the police agencies,” Stone stated.
Sean Petersen, 18, a senior at Panas, said he was in his third period class at about 9:30 a.m. when Principal Susan Strauss announced an emergency evacuation drill over the loud speaker. Students were directed into the parking lot where some waited in their cars, while others sat in school buses, for nearly two hours before they were allowed back inside.
Students were prevented from leaving school grounds. When some students managed to exit on Croton Avenue, they were stopped by police and ushered back to Panas.
“It was an eventful day,” Petersen said. “Nobody really knew for sure what was going on. Nobody had the same story. I thought the (school) day was over. Kids were joking about it later. I had a blast.”