WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Wednesday confirmed that a report of a man carrying a gun at a seminary/school in Laflin on Tuesday was unfounded.
At about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Luzerne County 911 received a report that a white male who entered the St. Joseph Oblates Seminary was possibly carrying a weapon, Salavantis said.
A Head Start preschool and special education classes run by Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 for about 20 students in kindergarten through fifth grades are located in the building.
The extremely serious nature of this call generated a rapid response from county detectives, state police and their aviation unit, and Laflin borough police, with assistance from Luzerne County Sheriff's Department and local police from Pittston Township, Plains Township, Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre Township and Canadian Pacific Railroad, she said.
Police were provided a description of the man, who was determined to be more than 6 feet tall with a large build and wearing dirty jeans. He could not be located.
The Oblates staff immediately engaged in their lockdown procedures and police, who arrived within minutes, secured and cleared the building, ensuring the man was no longer present, Salavantis said.
Members of the LIU responded to the scene and arranged an organized dismissal of students.
At about 7 p.m., a man matching the description of the reported gunman returned to the Oblates and spoke with a priest.
Police were again called and officer Vince Zerblas of Laflin Borough, Trooper Charles Prula of the state police and county Detective Dan Beky interviewed him, Salavantis said.
A thorough search was conducted and no weapons were found on him or in his vehicle. The search revealed he was wearing a back brace that stuck out of his jacket as described by witnesses and appeared to be consistent with a gun holster, Salavantis said.
Photos of the brace were taken and shown to witnesses from the Oblates who confirmed that the brace was, in fact, what they observed.
Obviously, since a crime was not committed, no charges will be filed, Salavantis said.
As it turns out, the man was there looking for a priest to hear his confession and initially was told a priest wasn't available and to come back later.
But Salavantis said that under no circumstance should this matter have been taken lightly and she was pleased with how urgently it was treated.
Oblates officials have advised that they will be reviewing procedures to ensure continued and improved safety, she said. My office as well as state and local police are happy to assist in those endeavors.