The librarian-in-training was a few minutes early for work at the Barnegat branch of the Ocean County Library on Wednesday morning when she saw a man dressed in what looked like black pajamas sprinting past the parking lot carrying a large sword.
“I was like, “Did I really just see a ninja?’ ” said Shilling, 23.
Turns out she did not.
The man clad in all black moving stealthily along the wood line was merely a camp counselor on his way to a costume-theme orientation at a nearby school. But Shilling did not know that when she dialed the township Police Department to report a man running around with a sword.
After receiving her report, police instituted a lockdown at the township’s public schools as a precaution.
For 17 minutes after Shilling’s 9 a.m. call, movement in and out of school buildings was restricted as officers attempted to locate what Shilling could only describe to them as a ninja, Lt. Patrick Shaffery said. The only students affected were those attending camp activities and student-athletes practicing at the high school, but staff members were at each building.
Officers eventually located Christopher Begley, 18, of Jon Drive, at Russell O. Brackman Middle School wearing a black karate gi with a black belt and sneakers. He was standing with other costumed camp counselors, including a pirate and three-headed man. Begley said he was surprised to hear his outfit had created a commotion.
“They told us to create a persona that reflected our personality for orientation,” said Begley, who has a black belt.
“It was a nice day out, so I decided to walk. I realized I was late so I started to run. I didn’t even think anybody saw me,” he said.
As for the sword, it was a footlong piece of gray plastic in a black holster that he bought from a dollar store.
Shilling admits her initial vision of a ninja is “absurdly strange,” in retrospect, but she stands by her decision to call the police.
“If he didn’t have a weapon, I would have never called,” she said. “I had no idea this would happen.”
Wednesday marked the fifth time the school district has instituted a lockdown since September. Most recently, the district locked the schools June 5 after a false report of a shooting at Southern Regional Middle School in neighboring Stafford.
But I wouldn’t want to leave out the last paragraph, which is the height of absurdity (italics mine):
Other lockdowns were prompted by a K-9 search for robbery suspects, a domestic dispute involving a student’s parents and a trespasser at Barnegat High School. The trespasser in the latter incident, township resident Rafael Adorno, was found guilty in Municipal Court on April 14 of trespassing on school property, but was elected to the district Board of Education the next day.
We, as a nation, have gone out of our fucking minds.