Grenade blast at New York school graduation prompts investigation

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Viewers get to see Alec Baldwin acting as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live A fourth person handled a firearm which fatally wounded a heckler at a…

Grenade blast at New York school graduation prompts investigation

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Viewers get to see Alec Baldwin acting as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live

A fourth person handled a firearm which fatally wounded a heckler at a New York high school graduation in June, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has said.

Alec Baldwin was one of the guests at the graduation ceremony in the Bronx.

An autopsy found he was not the triggerman.

A security guard, Jeremiah Bedford, 25, was shot in the torso, and another, 57-year-old Julius Shoolley, was killed by a ricocheting bullet as he collapsed at the graduation, according to the police.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is investigating. They have also asked the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to extend their investigation to the school district, according to a source with knowledge of the probe.

A spokesperson for the NYPD was not immediately available for comment when contacted by BBC News.

A photo of Mr Shoolley’s nephew, Omar Shoolley, at the graduation ceremony has been circulated online. Omar is pictured holding up a bouquet of flowers while looking very different from his brother – the two of them holding the same gun.

Image copyright NYPD Image caption Armadillo Avenue School is in the Bronx, just outside of New York City

According to the New York Post, Jeremiah Bedford’s sister Jacqueline Miles asked the school’s principal if her brother had weapons to protect herself at the graduation ceremony, the day after a graduating high school senior was shot in the head in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The administrator apparently told her brother, “There’s nothing going on here”.

According to reports, the website of the school, Armadillo Avenue, lists 9-10 weapons as a requirement for employees’ jobs. A document posted to the website also points out: “Prior to starting work, students must sign a weapon safety agreement that acknowledges they are responsible for their own actions.”

Jack Wolkove, the school’s superintendent, told New York newspaper the Daily News that he did not have access to the list of guns on the school’s property.

“The question is not how many guns were there at the school,” Mr Wolkove said. “The question is were there guns there that were in danger of their misuse.”

According to reports, graduation speaker Alec Baldwin encouraged students to “take pride in your firearm” at the ceremony.

The actor/comedian was seen on US television meeting with police detectives after leaving his home in the nearby city of Mount Vernon.

In July, Mr Bedford and Mr Shoolley were charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

In September, the district attorney’s office said the investigation into Mr Bedford’s death has been concluded and that they are not seeking any charges against Mr Baldwin.

“The shooting was the result of a tragedy that was foreseeable and reasonably avoidable,” acting district attorney Darcel Clark said.

The New York Police Department are also not charging Mr Shoolley, who they say accidentally shot himself.

Mr Shoolley, who was awarded a medal of honour for valour after serving in the Israeli army, was a father of four.

Image copyright Matthew Cavanaugh Image caption The city has made significant efforts to keep people safe at graduation events, mayor Bill de Blasio says

Figures released by the New York Police Department in March, three months after Mr Shoolley’s death, show that nearly 2,400 people were shot in the city in 2016, of which about 85% were non-fatal.

The city’s police commissioner, James O’Neill, has said that the public was safe from shootings at graduation ceremonies, though no arrests are made during graduation.

“Everyone’s taking a big interest in these occasions because of the risks involved,” the commissioner said.

“But generally, we have seen no spikes in crime during graduation.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has also made strides to ensure the safety of the ceremonies, saying that over 100,000 people attend high school graduations in the city each year.

“We want the safest graduation ceremonies for students and their families,” he said in March.

Thousands of parents came out to Mr de Blasio’s swearing-in ceremony to watch their children’s arrival at a ceremony at the Brooklyn Museum.

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