Danvers deals with accidental gunshot in St. John’s Prep crash


The detective reported that a piece of equipment got in his way as he stowed his firearm, which led to the accidental firing.

A St. John’s Prep student is hugged as he pulls into the parking lot of a Stop and Shop after an active shooter threat on the school campus locked the school down on Monday. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Team

The Danvers police detective whose accidental shooting caused panic and confusion during a ‘swatting’ incident at St. John’s Prep on Monday fired his gun at the ground as he tried to sheathe the firearm, city and police officials said.

In a news release Thursday, the city provided more details about what happened after the Danvers Police Emergency Center received a hoax call saying someone was in a bathroom of St. John’s Prep with a long gun and intent to harm students.

The officer who fired the accidental shot, Det. Christopher Gaffney, was among four officers who arrived on campus within two minutes of being dispatched, according to the statement.

  • Danvers deals with accidental gunshot in St. John's Prep crash

    Danvers officer accidentally fires gun during ‘swatting’ incident at St. John’s Prep; BC High also receives a hoax

Officers went to a first-floor bathroom in Brother Benjamin Hall to investigate, and Gaffney later reported that as he went to put his gun away, “his index finger was extended along the side of the barrel, which which matches his training, and that a secondary piece of equipment interfered with the holstering process, resulting in a single shot being discharged and hitting the tiled bathroom floor next to the officer’s foot.

There were no students or faculty inside or near the bathroom at the time, and none of the officers were injured, the city said.

The press release identified Gaffney as an 11-year veteran of the Danvers Police Department assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division since September 2019. Boston 25 News reported that Gaffney was not furloughed, but took a few holidays.

A number of people were inside Brother Benjamin Hall at the time of the accidental discharge and called 911, manager Edward P. Hardiman said at a news conference Monday. Danvers Police Chief James P. Lovell said the incident prompted a greater response from law enforcement.

St. John’s canceled classes Tuesday for its middle and high school students, The Boston Globe reported. When the students returned to campus on Wednesday, they encountered comfort dogs and people trained in the School Threat Assessment and Response System program.

The Danvers Police Department continues to investigate Monday’s incident and is awaiting additional documentation from the Massachusetts State Police Ballistics Unit, according to the news release. The department also plans to seek an independent review from the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.

Danvers Police will use information from the investigation and reviews to “take any corrective action and recommend training deemed appropriate,” the statement said.

“We recognize that Monday’s events at St. John’s Prep caused great fear and anguish not only to those in attendance at the prep that day, but also to our community at large,” the city said. “We are confident that we can learn from these events and work together to make changes that will make our schools and our community more safe. We thank you for your continued support.”


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