School of the Nations Principal, Dr Brian O’Toole was injured in a shooting at his home last night, hours after he had convened an emergency meeting at the school over a Facebook threat to harm students of the institution.
The shooting occurred after 9 pm at O’Toole’s residence in Bel Air Promenade. He is currently a patient at the Woodlands Hospital. He sustained gunshot wounds to his arm and his condition is regarded as stable.
Events surrounding the shooting remain unclear. Sources say the family believes it may have been an attempted robbery but others firmly believe it was connected to the threat that O’Toole addressed yesterday afternoon, the second in recent days against the school. On the Facebook page, ‘Nations trollololololo’ another threat was posted last night and aimed at O’Toole. The post was made just after O’Toole was shot. The threat stated “You have been warned. His life is not and won’t only be the first. Like I said there is a plethora of us out for your life.”
Stabroek News learnt that O’Toole came under attack after closing the gates to his premises last night. He was rushed to the private medical institution immediately after the shooting.
The neighbourhood was quiet last night. One neighbour told Stabroek News that he heard three gunshots and immediately went into his house. He stated that it was after the shooting, he learnt his neighbour had been shot.
Police were nowhere to be seen last night and up to press time this morning when Stabroek News visited O’Toole’s residence there was no evidence of police probing the shooting.
Yesterday afternoon, responding to the threat made on Facebook to injure students at the school, O’Toole said that they had asked cybersecurity experts and Facebook to aid in locating who made the post.
O’Toole, at the emergency meeting at School of the Nations told parents they had also contacted the police and are closely collaborating with them.
The post in question was made on Saturday night on the ‘Nations Trollololololo’ Facebook page. Students who subscribed to the page were privy to the post and quickly shared it among themselves and members of the school administration.
In the post, the unidentified person said, “…I’ve been doing this for a long time, but you give attention for some jokester instead of me…I’m tired of life. Before I go out I want to give a message to all of you, it’s my final gift to this ****hole of a school…If you feel life was “surreal” I will show what reality is next week. You all looked down on me this past year, without a shred of recognition. Everyone will know me now. If you even have an iota of care for this world, don’t bother showing up next week…” the person wrote. The post was accompanied by photos of a hand holding a gun as well as a bottle with the insinuation that chemicals were inside.
Briefing parents of children attending the school on the response to the threat, O’Toole said that they have contacted Facebook and cybersecurity experts who have done work with the US State Department to track the post. While the cybersecurity experts have indicated that it is difficult to track the post, Facebook, O’Toole said, is yet to respond. He noted that they only contacted Facebook a few hours before the meeting.
“They say it’s very difficult because anyone of us can go home tonight, make up a Hotmail address or Facebook and that’s the evil with the Internet because then you’ve got the capacity to put out absolute untruths,” O’Toole said to reporters following the conclusion of the meeting.
Responding to questions on whether school will be held today, O’Toole assured that school will be in session and it will be up to the parents to make the decision of whether to send their children or not.
He, however, informed parents that in addition to security guards at the school, they have hired two armed guards from a private security firm to man the gates. “We won’t have the guards patrolling the school compound to cause any fear to the young students. They will be at the gates,” O’ Toole responded to a question from a parent. He also stated that they would ask the police to patrol the area during school hours.
Further, he told parents that they will not be able to drop off or collect their children from inside the school compound. The gates, he said, will be closed in a bid to limit persons entering the compound. He indicated that parents will have to check with the security guards before they enter the compound.
During the course of the meeting, one parent recommended that random checks be
carried out on the students and their bags for illegal and offensive objects.
Another suggested that the school look at the possibility of installing metal detectors as a long term solution to prevent harmful object from entering the compound.
Parents who are licensed firearm holders were asked to be cautious and protective of their weapon and also to carry out checks of their children’s bags. Many suggested that as parents, they speak to their children in a bid to gather information of the possible attack and offer counselling. The parents along with teachers, were also asked to psychoanalyze the students for signs of mental illness.
O’Toole indicated that based on the Saturday post, it is suspected that the person is a sixth former and they will be meeting with those students to gather intelligence and possibly identify the person who wrote it.
“I find it very hard to believe in a small community like Guyana that it would be possible that somebody doesn’t know who made this post,” O’Toole said.
The Saturday post came days after a now expelled student made a similar post. The principal stated yesterday afternoon that the school did not have any suspicions as to who would have made the latest post.
The most recent post also alluded to the use of chemicals to injure students and one parent recommended that the school monitor its laboratory in which there are chemicals.
In addition, Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, who attended the meeting which was held on short notice, said the issue is of concern for the Ministry of Education despite the school being a private facility.
He noted that it is the Ministry’s mandate to protect the welfare of all students whether they are from the private or public education sector. In his address, he said “anybody we find that would become a threat or become harmful to the learning environment will be dealt with swiftly and condignly.”
He called on parents to instill order and discipline on their children regardless of their affluence and how privileged they are.