School crisis puts spotlight on elite unit

A 911 call from South Orangetown Middle School Tuesday morning alerted members of an elite SWAT team that a gunman had allegedly entered the school.

Members of Rockland County's R.E.A.C.T., or Rescue Entry and Counter Terrorism, unit arrived at the Blauvelt school within 15 minutes of the call.

Normally, team members say it would have taken them about a half hour to arrive at the scene. But on Tuesday, the unit's 22 members were assembled at a training facility in Pomona.

Once on the scene, members say several officers patrolled the building, which was put on lockdown. A member of the unit also went from classroom to classroom checking on the well-being of students.

The school superintendent, Ken Mitchell, has been credited by police with knocking a revolver from the hands of a former NYPD officer and wrestling him to the ground after the man allegedly stormed into the middle school.

The former police officer, Peter Cocker, of Tappan, is being held at the Rockland County Jail and has been charged with kidnapping, coercion and burglary.

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