A former New York City police officer may have been carrying a fully loaded handgun when he walked into the John M. Marshall Elementary School at about 9:45 a.m. on May 1, posing as an N.Y.P.D. working officer investigating school security.
The man, Harry Dalian, 36, of East Hampton was a passenger in his mother’s 2012 Mercedes SUV two days later when police pulled the car over at a rest stop in Wainscott. He was found to be armed with a loaded 9 millimeter gun, which he has a permit to carry.
Police Chief Gerard Larsen said Tuesday that there was no way of knowing whether Mr. Dalian had the gun on him when he entered the school. Village police and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department confiscated that gun and eight more handguns, all legally registered to Mr. Dalian, after the arrest.
According to police, Mr. Dalian visited the school seeking to drop something off for his 8-year-old daughter, a student at John Marshall.
At his arraignment Friday evening before Justice Catherine Cahill, Mr. Dalian’s attorney, Edward Burke Jr., said his client had become concerned after finding an unlocked door at the school building. He went up to two uniformed officers in the parking lot, a detective and an officer who is regularly assigned to the premises during school hours.
The pair later reported that Mr. Dalian had asked them about school security and what their schedule was for patrolling the school grounds. He then pulled out an N.Y.P.D. badge and ID, they said, saying he wanted to speak to the principal of the school, Gina Kraus, and the district superintendent, Richard Burns, and that he was looking forward to seeing a study being made of the school’s security plan.
Suspicions raised, the officers looked into the identity of the man they had just spoken to. A call to the N.Y.P.D. produced the information that Mr. Dalian had been with the department from 2004 to 2006, when he left for personal reasons, though not before reporting his badge and ID lost or stolen.
Mr. Dalian was picked up for questioning on Friday and interviewed at the Cedar Street stationhouse. He was arrested afterward, charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and criminal impersonation of a police officer, both class A misdemeanors.
Mr. Burke termed the sequence of events leading to his client’s arrest “a great misunderstanding.”
Village detectives have been coordinating their investigation with the county sheriff’s department, which immediately revoked Mr. Dalian’s New York State gun permit after his arrest.
Chief Larsen pointed out that a metal detector outside the school building would have prevented Mr. Dalian from entering it if indeed he was armed, but cautioned that the metal detector alone could not prevent a tragedy, being “only as effective as the personnel manning it.”
Mr. Dalian’s wife was in court on Friday during the arraignment and was visibly upset. An older woman sitting next to her comforted her, assuring her before the proceedings began that everything would be all right. At the same time, the defendant’s 2-year-old son was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” oblivious to what was going on around him.
Justice Cahill released Mr. Dalian without bail. He has a June 13 date to be back in court.
Chief Larsen said he has been banned from all school properties.