Tonawanda News

The Town

February 14, 2014

Alleged Ken West trespasser pleads not guilty

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.

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