Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The man who trespassed into Kenmore West and made disjointed comments about the Sandy Hook massacre pleaded not guilty Thursday in town court and was then released from custody.
Derie O. Mohamed, 36, of Hillcrest Drive, City of Tonawanda, had been held in the Erie County Holding Center since the incident on Feb. 4. He was charged with third-degree trespassing after he allegedly entered the school without a legal reason to be on the grounds.
Concerns were heightened after Mohamed told the arresting officer that he “was glad that security was tight at the school because of Sandy Hook,” the police report states.
He noted that he had recently visited Somalia and said “I am not a terrorist.”
Police called in the FBI to talk to Mohamed, but the federal agency has not had any contact with him since then. Authorities have insisted that Mohamed did not pose a danger to the school and his attorney, John Nichols, echoed those statements.
“He stated that he went to school there and wanted to go back and talk to some teachers,” Nichols said Thursday after his client’s appearance in court. “He didn’t threaten anyone, he wasn’t a danger to anyone.”
A forensic exam completed at the holding center did not indicate any psychiatric problems, but Nichols said that the results could indicate that a cultural difference may explain his client’s behavior.
“He didn’t appreciate the gravity of what was going on,” Nichols said. “In his native land of Somalia ... people may approach it differently than we would have here,” he said.
Mohamed did not speak much during his brief appearance, but assured Judge Mark Gruber that he now understands why school officials and police were concerned about his actions.
Gruber instructed Mohamed not to go near school grounds. He will enter into a mental health program for further evaluations and will then report back to court on Feb. 27.
Parents were concerned about how Mohamed entered the school, but police Capt. Joseph Carosi said he likely came in when students were exiting at about 2:30 p.m.
“It was a busy time of the day and students were leaving the school,” Carosi said. “It’s likely that he entered when someone else was leaving and then just blended into the crowd.”
The Ken-Ton district did not release information on the incident until two days after the arrest, when it sent an automated message to parents.
“Superintendent of schools thanks security staff for their reaction and has reminded all school buildings and staff members to ensure that all doors are closed as much as possible at dismissal times and during the school day,” a statement on the district website reads.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.