Newtown tragedy felt in Bronx

Robert Soltis, of Newtown, Conn., pauses after making the sign of the cross at a memorial to school shooting victims in Newtown, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Charles Krupa

The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut may be far away from the Bronx, but it hit home with memories of other local children murdered, extra preparedness at local schools and borough electeds offering their condolences.

It was the second worst school shooting in American history, with 20 young children and six adults plus the shooter dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14.

Schools prepared

At least one east Bronx elementary school was already prepared for danger, having held an intruder drill on Monday, Dec. 10.

“We had a drill … just making sure the kids are in the classroom and that it is locked down,” said a staffer, who asked the school not be identified.

Teachers and other staff were not speaking about the tragedy unless children brought it up, they said, but so far, there had not seemed to be a need for any consoling.

The city Department of Education has stepped up security measures since the tragedy, the source confirmed.

Remembering a Bronx victim

Iris Negron, who just retired after 27 years as a senior crime victims advocate for Bronx District Attorney Rob Johnson’s office, was having a celebratory lunch with staffers at the major case bureau when news of the Newtown massacre broke.

“It’s just devastating dealing with cases like that, with young children,” said Negron, 62. “As an advocate for the victim’s family, you have to put up an emotional wall to effectively do your job and hold back your tears.”

She recalled having to deal with the murder of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, fatally struck by a bullet July 22 in a gang shootout at a playground at the Forest Houses in Morrisania where his family and neighbors were enjoying a basketball game and barbecue.

When Negron got home after dealing with the little boy’s family, helping set them up with the state Crime Victims Board and other services, “I just had to let it out. I had a four-year-old great-grandson, and I thought of him.

Boro condolences

Almost immediately after the shooting, an “extremely shocked and saddened” Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. expressed his and the borough’s own sympathies for the town and its victims of gun violence.

“Our nation is in mourning and I, along with the 1.4 million residents in the Bronx, will keep Sandy Hook Elementary School and the entire state of Connecticut in our thoughts and prayers through this difficult time as our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded,” he said in a statement.

Gun control push

Tom Vasti, a former police officer and secretary of the Parkchester Rifle and Revolver Club, said he expects stronger gun regulation and possibly a ban on assault weapons.

“Personally, I think the ban is coming,” said Vasti. “However, if there is going to be confiscation where you have to turn in weapons, you are going to have a problem.”

Most members of the gun club are retired law enforcement officers, he said, who feel strongly about gun regulation.

Vasti said while recently serving on a jury dealing with a gun case, he was asked his views on guns, and responded that he takes a very dim view of people who misuse firearms “because it makes all legitimate gun owners look bad.” About Newtown: “There are about 300 million guns in the country, and three million assault rifles, and here you have one that was misused in a horrific way, and everybody has to turn guns in.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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