Hampstead official apologizes for 'graphic' description of school shooting scenario
HAMPSTEAD — Budget Committee Chairman Jorge Mesa-Tejada apologized Sunday after coming under fire for statements he made at a meeting in which he described how a school shooting could be carried out.
In a letter issued to the community, Mesa-Tejada said he was sorry for “alarming” some people with his remarks and acknowledged that he used graphic language when making a point about school safety during a discussion last week about a proposed $4.5 million addition and renovation project at Hampstead Central School.
“Stupidly, I used excessively graphic language. It’s inexcusable and I apologize,” he wrote.
The controversial comments came at a meeting Jan. 14, when Mesa-Tejada was referring to an infomercial created on the school building project.
In the infomercial, he said, the “issue of safety for the students going from the portable (classrooms) to the main building was emphasized that based on today’s situation we can have snipers anywhere shooting people and all that, they might be shot. Well, that’s true, it could happen, but based on my Marine Corps training, if I wanted to really do harm, I wouldn’t do it while they’re going from the portables to the main building. I would wait until recess. I would hide in the woods behind them and I’d have a field day.”
Another budget committee member then told Mesa-Tejada, “No more.”
The remarks outraged some members of the public and school officials.
On Friday, school Superintendent Dr. Earl Metzler issued a no-trespass order barring Mesa-Tejada from entering school property without permission.
In a joint statement, Metzler and school board Chairman Jason Cipriano criticized Mesa-Tejada, saying he “scoffed” at the school board’s concerns about the safety of students in an active-shooter situation at the school, which has portable classrooms that aren’t connected to the main school building.
Mesa-Tejada tried to clarify his statement in his letter.
“My intention was to highlight the fact that the children are more at risk on the playground than when moving between the trailers and the main building, should someone want to harm them,” he wrote.
Mesa-Tejada said he made the observation in response to the “safety emphasis” pushed by the school board in the infomercial.