NORWALK – Nine arrests have been made in connection to recent assaults, threats and vandalism in the city. And the culprits, police say, are a group of middle schoolers calling themselves “504.”
The Norwalk Police Department made two Facebook posts on Monday, detailing the incidents and investigations surrounding the arrests.
According to the news release from Police Chief James Walsh, school resource officers learned of a “loosely organized group” made up primarily of middle school students that called themselves “504” – allegedly a reference to the Honduras calling code. Officers initiated 18 separate investigations into vandalism, threats and assaults, he said, and nine juvenile arrests have been made.
Soon after the news release, the department published an update by Walsh regarding a separate April 19 incident in which a West Rocks Middle School student was arrested for allegedly “physically confronting” a paraprofessional.
Residents’ reactions to the incidents were mixed, with many thanking the police for their efforts and others requesting that more information be released.
In the case of the “504” group, some residents questioned whether the name was instead a reference to 504 plans – education plans for students with a physical or mental impairment – rather than the Honduras calling code.
But on Tuesday, Walsh reaffirmed his findings in a statement to CT Examiner.
“Our police department has received intelligence and this loosely organized group identifies themselves as ‘504’ due to the country calling code, as I stated in my press release,” Walsh said. “It has nothing to do with the 504 plan when it comes to an educational issue.”
In the case of the West Rocks Middle School student, Walsh said police interviewed the paraprofessional, the student and a witness who walked in during the incident, and determined that it was the student who initiated the physical confrontation. He explained that the Monday update was a followup on concerns from a “community stakeholder.”
Brenda Penn-Williams, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Norwalk branch, released a statement over the weekend, claiming that the school district had not fully investigated the West Rocks incident.
According to Penn-Williams, she was asked to help the student in the investigation as his family speaks “very little English.” Following the incident, she said, the student told school administration that the paraprofessional was the aggressor, claiming the employee had “put his hands on the student’s neck.”
Penn-Williams alleged that she met with the mother of a student witness and an adult witness, who also said the paraprofessional was the aggressor.
Walsh addressed the conflicting accounts in his update, saying police interviewed their witness a second time, who provided an “identical” statement to his previous interview.
Walsh told CT Examiner that the investigation was now closed, but Penn-Williams continued to question the department’s determination on Tuesday.
“I was sitting in the room when that kid said that [paraprofessional] was aggressive. I was sitting right there,” Penn-Williams told CT Examiner. “I don’t know where [Walsh] got that from.”
Asked for comment on both the “504” and West Rocks arrests, Norwalk Public Schools media relations specialist Emily Morgan referred to the district’s official statement.
“In light of recent allegations posted on various social media channels that make reference to a situation involving Norwalk Public Schools, the district is reiterating that these claims of improper response hold no merit and that NPS has followed well-established protocols and proper procedures when responding to the situation,” the statement read.
In response to a request for comment, Mayor Harry Rilling deferred to the police department for further information.
“The Norwalk Police Department is working closely with Norwalk Public Schools to address these incidents,” Rilling said. “The safety and well-being of our students and community remains our top priority.”