LONDONDERRY — The Londonderry Middle School teacher recently arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot a student with a gun if he had one, was investigated by police in February for making similar threats, according to the arrest warrant.
Police say Steven Dwyer, 51, of Manchester, turned himself in to Londonderry Police on Nov. 27 based on allegations by a student who said Dwyer threatened him.
Londonderry Police Det. Chris Olson said a student told police Dwyer threatened to shoot the student with a gun if he had one.
Dwyer was charged with criminal threatening, a Class A misdemeanor. He was released on personal recognizance.
Olson said the alleged incident occurred on Nov. 9 and, according to the student and several witnesses, Dwyer singled out the 13-year-old student because he had his head on his desk.
According to the arrest warrant, Dwyer allegedly told the student “I don’t believe in guns or have a gun but if I did I would shoot you because you have your head down and you’re not paying attention.”
Dwyer allegedly yelled the comment and slammed his hands down on his desk.
Students reported the comment to a guidance counselor who then reported it to Principal Rich Zacchilli. Zacchilli met with Dwyer and his union representative, and asked if he said “If I had a gun, I would shoot you?” and Dwyer responded, “Yes.”
Zacchilli suspended Dwyer and had him escorted from school property.
During that meeting, Dwyer expressed frustration that the students don’t take matters seriously and “everything is a joke to them,” Zacchilli told police.
The comments allegedly arose during an English class discussion about the use of idioms like “don’t shoot the messenger.”
Witnesses said Dwyer had already become agitated because the school plays music before the official start time of the class period, which Dwyer often rants about because he says it cuts into his instruction time.
Several students recounted similar variations of Dwyer’s statement to investigators, some ending with “Yes, that is a threat.”
Det. Timothy Moran, who led the investigation, stated in the warrant that he previously investigated Dwyer for making veiled threats about gun violence to students on Feb. 14.
In a police report about that incident, a student told Moran that Dwyer became upset during a discussion about video games and complained that students don’t take anything seriously. He asked them what they would do in the event of a school shooting.
“I want New Hampshire to have a mass shooting,” Dwyer said, according to the student.
Dwyer allegedly brought up the issue of a school shooting again on Feb. 16 and ended by saying “I can’t bring it up because you crybabies will go home and cry to your mommies.”
Another student witness told police Dwyer said “It’ll take something tragic, you guys don’t take anything serious. I’m wishing for a school shooting in New Hampshire.”
“I felt like he was going to shoot up the school,” that student told police.
When police interviewed Dwyer about the February incident, he denied saying he wished for or wanted a school shooting, but did say he thought the students would only take violence seriously if a school shooting did happen in the state.
Dwyer admitted to police that the comments were probably “a little over the top” but that “some of the kids in the class needed to hear it to stop the snickering.”
Superintendent Scott Laliberte said in a statement that Dwyer was placed on administrative leave in early November pending investigations by the police and school district.
At the time, Moran determined the comments didn’t rise to the level of criminal harassment and decided not to file any charges.
“These allegations are currently being investigated. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that all persons must be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. As always, the safety, security and well-being of our students is our top priority,” Laliberte said.
Attempts to contact Dwyer Friday were unsuccessful.
Dwyer is scheduled to be arraigned at Derry District Court on Dec. 13.