At first, physical education teacher Dan Campbell thought the animated man grasping a young student in the gymnasium of Stockton Springs Elementary School last Halloween was an irate parent.
Then the man pulled a gun.
“All I remember was his face and his gun,” Campbell recalled Wednesday. “And he looked wild. The man’s face looked wild.”
The ensuing minutes were frantic as the staff of Stockton Springs Elementary suddenly came to grips with the realization that one of the nightmare scenarios for which they had trained — a gunman loose in the school — was actually happening.
But thanks to that emergency training and several acts of brazen courage by school staff, every student walked away from Stockton Springs Elementary that day physically unharmed. Randall Hofland of Searsport, the accused gunman, was quickly tackled by police after he relinquished the weapon to a child.
On Wednesday, the Maine State Police and Gov. John Baldacci bestowed the state police’s Award for Bravery on four school employees and recognized 10 law enforcement officers for their service that frightening day.
The four school employees each put their own lives on the line by confronting the gunman before police arrived.
Bus driver Glen Larrabee was the first to approach the man in the gym and was instrumental in blocking his attempts to take several children to a nearby room. Larrabee also pursued the gunman down the halls after he fled the gym.
Campbell, after seeing the gun, grabbed the child from the man, yelled, “Lockdown!” and then locked himself and two children in a nearby room.
School secretary Tina Boyce used the public address system to quickly put the building into lockdown mode and called 911. She then went door to door in the school and, after finding the armed man in a classroom with students, told him to release the children.
Teacher Carolyn Russell tried desperately to keep Hofland out of her fifth-grade classroom and then — with the gun pointed directly at her — attempted to talk him into leaving.
Maine State Police Lt. Thomas E. Kelly, who introduced the award recipients during a ceremony in Augusta, said the incident should reinforce for other schools the importance of developing and rehearsing emergency plans. Kelly also said Hofland later admitted that the quick, coordinated response by law enforcement spoiled his plan.
“It was a horrible situation with a gunman entering the school and taking children hostage,” Baldacci said during the ceremony. “Because of the quick thinking of the school employees and law enforcement officers, the situation was resolved without incident.”
Several of the employees said afterward that they were honored by the recognition but modestly said they were only following the rehearsed plan and trying to protect the children.
Boyce said that in retrospect, she isn’t sure why she was not frightened when she confronted the gunman in the classroom.
“I guess it is just something that you never think will happen, and then when it happens you just do whatever” is necessary, Boyce said. “I think what helped me was my emergency room nurse training. We were trained to be calm.”
Larrabee said afterward that the fifth-grade students who were taken hostage showed enormous courage and deserve credit for helping defuse the situation.
The following officers received the state police’s Meritorious Service Award for their roles in the incident: Trooper Jonah O’Roak and Detective Jason Andrews with the Maine State Police; Lincolnville Police Chief Ron Young; and Waldo County Sheriff’s Deputies Scott Jones and Glenn Graef.
The following officers received awards of commendations for their part in the hostage situation: Searsport Police Chief Richard LaHaye and Detective Merl Reed; and Detective Jason Bosco, Deputy Chief Robert Keating and Lt. Bryant White with the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department.
Many other law enforcement officers also were recognized during the awards ceremony. They include:
Sgt. Dennis Perry and Deputy Adam Davis with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Machias Police Chief Grady Dwelley, and Maine State Police Sgt. Jeff Ingemi and Trooper Miles Carpenter for their roles in responding to a double-murder at a Marshfield home in January.
Maine State Police Trooper Chuck Michaud, whose quick response prevented a domestic violence incident in Mars Hill from becoming a homicide.
Trooper Bernard Brunette and Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputies Richie Putnam and Michael Ross for their roles in dealing with a man in Harmony who was intent on killing himself and potentially police.
In addition to receiving recognition for his role in the Stockton Springs incident, Detective Jason Andrews of Maine State Police Troop D was also named Trooper of the Year.
Hofland, 55, was indicted by the Waldo County grand jury on 22 counts of kidnapping, 12 counts of criminal restraint with a dangerous weapon, six counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and one count of burglary. He was arraigned on those 41 charges before Justice Jeffrey Hjelm on Jan. 7 and entered not guilty pleas on each. He remains jailed on $1 million bail. It could not be immediately determined if a trial date has been set.