A Bayonne hockey coach and social studies teacher, David McKenna, 38,appeared in court last week on assault charges after allegedly pointing a State Trooper’s semiautomatic handgun at two people in the coach’s locker room at Bayonne High School on November 30 during a hockey practice, according to court records. The gun, which was holstered and hanging in the coach’s office, belonged to an off-duty NJ State Trooper and assistant hockey coach, Richard Korpi Jr., whose father the school’s ice rink, the Richard Korpi Ice Rink, was named for in 1986.
McKenna allegedly removed the gun from its holster and walked into the hallway with the weapon in hand. He then walked back into the office and allegedly pointed the weapon in the direction of two people, one a student, and another, a teacher.
McKenna, who led the state in scoring as a Bayonne High School hockey player, was suspended from his position with pay, according to district officials. Korpi is no longer in his coaching position.
Guns in schools
While Korpi is legally allowed as a State Trooper to carry a firearm off-duty, gun policies at Bayonne High School dictate that no weapon should beleft on school grounds.
“We have policies in place, and that’s why the people involved were suspended,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael A. Wanko. “What we’ve done and continue to do is meet with the administrators in charge of facilities in off-hours to affirm the existing policies and to keep a vigilant watch on what’s happening.”
New Jersey prohibits the knowing possession of any firearm in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any schoolwithout the written authorization of that institution. The prohibition applies regardless of whether the possessor has a valid permit to carry the firearm or a valid Firearms Purchaser Identification Card.
But school districts can set policies on top of those laws to help prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Wanko noted an example of a school he once worked at. That school set a policy that accommodates parents carrying firearms that are not allowed inside the building by escorting children outside to meet parents.
Whether policy changes are appropriate in Bayonne will be determined at Bayonne Board of Education (BBOED) meetings. New policies and revisions to existing policies will be discussed at the BBOED Reorganization meeting on Tuesday, January 9.
“We have policies in place and that’s why the people involved were suspended.” – Dr. Michael A. Wanko
“We’re happy that no one got hurt,” said BBOED President Joseph Broderick of an incident that could have resulted in tragedy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,800 people died from accidental shootings in the U.S. between 2005 and 2010. “It’s something that we just can’t let happen.”
McKenna will appear again before a judge on January 26 on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and possession of a firearm in or upon a building or grounds of a school without written authorization.
According to an NJ.com report, McKenna’s attorney, Joel Silberman, said he intends to file a lawsuit against the City of Bayonne, the BBOED, and the NJ State Police for negligence, among other allegations. Wanko said he cannot comment on legal matters.
At press time, Silberman had not returned calls for comment. So far, no motive has been given for McKenna’s allegedly pointing a gun at two people on school property.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.