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Lockdown-School steps up security after man's escape

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School steps up security after man's escape



Staff writer

About 240 students at Veterans' Memorial School have been affected by the escape of a Brazilian man from Gloucester District Court a week ago.

Since that time, children have remained indoors for recess, all access to the school is monitored and the front door is locked.

A notice went home with children at the Ward 2 school yesterday afternoon explaining to parents that the children and extended family of Gilmar Santos -- a man described by authorities as dangerous -- attend Veterans' Memorial School. The precautions were taken and will remain in effect until his capture, the notice said. Parents will be notified of any change.

"We're just taking precautions in the interest of keeping kids safe," said Police Chief James Marr.

Santos, age 32, slipped his shackles and disappeared from the courthouse on Tuesday last week. He had returned to the country after deportation and was being held on nine charges, including stalking his ex-wife, who lives in Gloucester with their three children, and threatening to kill her.

Local police, the Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have arrested or detained some family or friends of Santos who are alleged to have aided him. But as of last night, Santos himself remained at large.

Veterans' Principal Dennis O'Donnell was not available for comment yesterday afternoon.

School Superintendent Thomas Consolati said when school officials learned about the escape, special police vigilance was requested and a police officer was assigned to the school.

The children of the escapee were not in school for a couple of days, but the same steps continued. Consolati added that the police have been reporting regularly to school officials.

Parents of children attending the school had received no word before yesterday from the school. But the problem became apparent in the neighborhood around Taylor Street last week when residents could see uniformed and undercover police, and police with dogs, combing the area.

One woman, who lives across the street from where Santos' ex-wife used to live before -- being relocated when her apartment underwent renovations -- was told that a crazy man escaped from the court and threatened to kill the ex-wife.

One mother from Taylor Street said she had no idea her child was going to school under such conditions until she heard it over coffee last Friday. She said she was angry because she, as the parent, had never been notified.

It turned out her child was in the class of one of the Santos children.

The mother learned that a police officer was walking the halls and every now and then popping in to ask if everything was alright in the class.

When she asked her child what was happening in school, the child replied that teachers are afraid because a Brazilian man is loose and they could not go outside for recess. Another child in the class commented that he was afraid he was going to be shot with a gun from a crazy guy outside and that's why the children are locked in, according to the mother, who asked the newspaper not to use her name.

"It so unfair we didn't know anything about it," said the Taylor Street parent. "If they think it's so serious that a detective is bringing (Santos') children to and from school, and serious enough that the school is in lockdown and serious enough for a police officer to walk the hallways, why was it not important enough to let the parents know what's going on?"

The mother said she was angry because she did not know enough about the situation to be able to discuss it with her child and help him feel safe and reassured.

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