East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen this week explained the sequence of events that led to the arrest of a father who visited the John Marshall Elementary School on May 1 and allegedly identified himself in the parking lot as a New York City Police officer.
Village Police charged Harry Dalian, 36, of East Hampton with two misdemeanors, criminal impersonation and criminal possession of stolen property, at 10 a.m. on Friday after pulling his car over at a rest stop in Wainscott. Mr. Dalian had a legal, fully loaded handgun at the time of his arrest, but police said there was no indication that he had any weapons in his possession at the time he was on school property two days earlier.
Mr. Dalian was released on his own recognizance after pleading not guilty at arraignment in East Hampton Town Justice Court at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. His attorney, Edward Burke Jr. of Sag Harbor, told Justice Catherine Cahill his client was “a very concerned parent” who believed there had been an unlocked door during school hours.
Village Police said Mr. Dalian approached two uniformed police officers in the school parking lot at about 9:45 a.m. on May 1, introduced himself and told them he had visited the school and found a door unlocked. Police said he asked the officers, Detective Sergeant Greg Brown and Detective Steven Sheades, what days of the week they were on the premises and said he wanted to speak with the principal about security and was looking forward to seeing an independent safety audit that the School District has commissioned.
When Det. Sheades asked him “who he was again,” a police report indicates, Mr. Dalian asked if they wanted his “‘credentials,’” showing them an NYPD identification and shield, then said he was going to talk to the district superintendent, walked to his car and left.
Chief Larsen said this week that the officers had found it odd that Mr. Dalian offered to produce an ID without being asked to do so. “The incident that happened on Wednesday really was just a feeling that the man wasn’t really a police officer,” the chief said.
His department contacted the NYPD to verify that Mr. Dalian was working with that force and learned that he had worked there from 2004 to 2006, but quit in 2006 for personal reasons. He had reported a badge and ID as lost or stolen in 2006, Chief Larsen said.
“We then found out he had nine guns listed on his permit,” Chief Larsen said. The permit to possess them had been obtained in 2008, but a “carry permit,” allowing him to have any of the handguns on his person, was obtained in November 2012, Chief Larsen said.
The chief said his force knew Mr. Dalian would be heading west on Friday, as the NYPD had “set up a meeting with him.” Village Police stopped him in Wainscott as he rode as a passenger in a Mercedes.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department confiscated the nine handguns and suspended Mr. Dalian’s gun permit, according to Village Police. Chief Larsen said in a statement on Saturday that he has asked for a permanent revocation. Mr. Dalian is no longer allowed on school property, and Village Police have recovered his NYPD identification, the statement said.
In Justice Court on Friday, Mr. Burke said Mr. Dalian had lost a badge while still a police officer. After a new badge was issued, Mr. Dalian found the old one, Mr. Burke said.
Mr. Burke said his client had no criminal record “whatsoever,” and Justice Cahill noted that and the fact that he had hired a local attorney in deciding to release him without bail. Mr. Burke told the justice that his client had lived at his East Hampton address for six years and had worked as a computer consultant for his own business, SPC Inc., for the same period of time.
Mr. Burke said Mr. Dalian had been “fully cooperative with law enforcement,” surrendering guns he was legally entitled to have.
The defendant hugged his 2-year-old son and wife, who were in the courtroom, after his handcuffs and leather strap had been removed. His son babbled during the arraignment, prompting smiles from almost everyone in the courtroom.
He is scheduled to return to court on June 13.
“I realize that this incident and the ‘what ifs’ will bring into question future security concerns and needs,” Chief Larsen wrote in the statement on Saturday, going on to say that East Hampton School District and the East Hampton Village Police Department have always worked together to meet the security needs of the school, and have been working even harder to do so since the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
“The Police Department acted quickly in dealing with this situation as I was personally concerned as to the motive and stability of the defendant. Now that the investigation has concluded, I feel reasonably certain to say, at no time on May 1 during Mr. Dalian’s visit to the school were any children or faculty in danger,” Chief Larsen said in the release.
The statement continues, in bold type: “In fact, there is no evidence that the defendant had any weapons in his possession at the time he was on school property.”