TPD Chief Johnson Speaks on Suspicious Person at Lincoln Elementary

May 23, 2024 | Crime

Torrington, WY May 23rd, 2024 — The story about a suspicious person near Lincoln Elementary spread like wildfire on social media today. Many parents and community members expressed their concern about the matter, with some individuals wondering why GCSD#1 or the Torrington Police Department haven’t released the identification of the suspicious person. Other concerned parties expressed frustration with communication and the extent of the information that has already been released. Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson sat down with GoCoNOW to shed some light on a complicated situation.

Chief Johnson explained the situation and how it was handled by the School District and TPD.

“It’s important to recognize that this is a win,” said Chief Johnson. “This is a system working the way that it’s supposed to work. If you look at what happened between the staff at the District and our staff at the Police Department – specifically our School Resource Officers (SROs) – the District staff identified somebody inside of the school that shouldn’t have been there, that was behaving suspiciously. They contacted that person right away before that person was in contact with any kids or anything else, and when the story didn’t line up, they asked him to leave, which he did. They followed up with our SRO team so that everybody was aware of what was going on. When he was observed near the school a couple of days later they took care of that as well. They made sure that he left and then contacted our SROs who were able to follow up with him, contact that person, and get all of the information that we lawfully could get to make sure that we had done a complete investigation. As part of what was observed in the school, and as part of what the officers observed during the contact, there was certainly some suspicious behavior there, and there were some indicators of possible risk. Because there were possible risk indicators, the officers followed up with District Administration. The person didn’t have a need to be at the school so he was trespassed from the school and all other District property.”

As for the identification of the person, Chief Johnson said that it would be inappropriate to put out information indicating that a person had committed a crime when there was no probable cause that one had been committed. The Chief said that information was shared with staff at Lincoln Elementary for the purpose of being able to identify the person if he were to commit a crime.

“It’s really important to note that we don’t have a verified threat that this person was dangerous to the school,” said Johnson. “There was no probable cause that this person committed a crime. I believe that we took appropriate action to make sure that our kids are safe and our schools are safe, and we’ve got a good plan to follow up moving forward. It would be pretty inappropriate for us to put out information indicating that a person had committed a crime when there’s no probable cause that one had been committed. The information that we shared with staff at the school was solely for the purpose of them being able to identify that person if he committed a crime by returning to the campus that he had been trespassed from.”

Chief Johnson also took a moment to explain the “trespass” notification.

“It’s an official notice to a person that they have no longer a lawful reason to be at a location, and if they return they will be arrested for trespass. At that point, having been notified that they are not welcome at a location that is private, if they return they can be arrested immediately and be charged with the crime of trespass.”

The Chief also took a moment to explain the School Resource Officer program.

“Inside the City of Torrington we have two School Resource Officers. Our officers are Officers Jeff Ryall and Officer Stephen Easton. Officer Ryall serves primarily at the High School. Officer Easton is assigned primarily to the Middle School. He also floats in between the other schools in town to keep an eye on them and make them safe. We also have a contract position with Officer Alex Irons who is a part-time officer with our agency. He contracts under a MOU with the Sheriff’s Department and the School District out at Southeast and La Grange. Alex has a ton of experience as a law enforcement officer and does an awesome job connecting with kids out in the southern part of our county. Love the relationships that we get to build there, and our schools matter. We need to keep them safe. So, having police officers that are pointed in that direction all of the time and doing what they can to help is a win for everybody.”