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Police clear man accused of wielding gun at Concord High, say girl made it up

  • Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Concord SChol Superintendant Chris Rath listens to Concord Police Chief John Duval tell the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Concord SChol Superintendant Chris Rath listens to Concord Police Chief John Duval tell the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Concord Police Chief John Duval tells members of the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Concord SChol Superintendant Chris Rath listens to Concord Police Chief John Duval tell the press that the police dropped charges against alleged Concord High School gunman; Wednesday, May 1, 2013. On Tuesday night the school was evacuated and a tactical team called in. Duval said that another student's story led to the incident.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

The Concord police cleared an 18-year-old man of wrongdoing hours after charging him Tuesday night and acknowledged yesterday that they had acted on a false report from a student who claimed he had threatened her with a gun at Concord High School.

At a press conference yesterday, Chief John Duval said rumors contributed to the confusion – as a SWAT team swept the school and social media filled with accounts that students had been shot. But the chief said that chaos didn’t cloud the investigation and the man was charged because detectives initially believed the supposed victim, whose story later crumbled.

“It was not something where on the initial face of it (investigators) detected any obvious lies,” Concord police Lt. Timothy O’Malley said. “Sometimes it’s obvious. In this case, they said it was very credible.”

That 16-year-old girl, who the police said may now face charges herself, made her first report to the police about 7:35 p.m. Tuesday, said O’Malley, who said she gave a clear and believable account that there had been a student in the school with a gun. O’Malley said other students reported then that the man in question had been upset that night, possibly over not getting a part in a zombie movie being filmed at the high school that evening.

O’Malley said the police are still investigating whether those accounts were accurate, but that detectives considered them when deciding to make an arrest. He said that primarily, though, investigators were concerned with the girl’s report when they took 18-year-old Gordon Hollingworth into custody shortly thereafter at his Concord home.

Hollingworth – who officials now say was at the school that night but had likely left by the time the police were called – was arrested and charged with criminal threatening, a Class B felony. Hollingworth couldn’t be reached yesterday for comment but his sister said her brother was at her home, on North State Street, when the girl made her first report to the police.

Only after Hollingworth had been charged did investigators conduct a second interview with the girl at the police station, said O’Malley, who added that detectives found even her second recounting of the evening to be credible.

But her third interview, conducted sometime after midnight, didn’t hold up, he said. O’Malley would not describe that conversation or say whether the girl admitted to lying. But he said yesterday that the police now believe her claim that Hollingworth had a gun at the school was “a complete fabrication.”

O’Malley denied that officers charged the man prematurely, though. He said they had probable cause to make the arrest when they did.

“They had a report, and a very credible report, of someone in the school with a firearm,” he said. “Given the potential threat to public safety, the officers acted appropriately. Probable cause is probable cause. . . . It’s not guilty. We operate on that standard to make our arrests.”

The girl spoke with the Monitor on Tuesday night and claimed Hollingworth pointed the gun at her after he had grown upset with other students involved in the zombie movie.

Within a couple hours of the incident at the high school, she posted comments about the matter on her public Facebook page, telling a friend in one exchange that she was okay but shaken. She also posted an account of the evening, which was removed by yesterday morning, along with other posts and links to news stories about the incident.

Yesterday on her Facebook page, she briefly posted this comment: “im sorry for my lies.”

Reached yesterday, the girl declined to comment. Her mother told the Monitor she believed the police could not bring charges against her daughter because she is a minor.

“We’ve corrected my daughter’s problem with the police,” she added.

But the police said they are considering charges of creating public alarm and making a false report to law enforcement. O’Malley said they’re still investigating whether those or other counts are warranted. That could take a few days, he said.

Duval said his department alone spent up to $10,000 on Tueday night’s investigation, and it’s possible those costs could eventually be deferred to the girl, if she is charged, through the courts system.

Name not released

Tuesday’s arrest was unusual in that the police charged the man with a felony but did not formally release his name.

Concord Lt. John Thomas did inadvertently provide Hollingworth’s name, albeit misspelled, as part of a press release issued at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday; the document was saved as “Press Release Gordon Hollington 2013.”

As late as 12:45 a.m. yesterday, Duval said the police intended to release the name and booking photo of the man they had in custody. That release never came. And later that morning, officials confirmed the charges had been dropped. Hollingworth was in custody for about four hours before being released, O’Malley said.

(The Monitor named Hollingworth after confirming his identity not only through the press release but also with several independent sources familiar with the investigation.)

Duval, not mentioning the misspelling in the press release, stressed that the department held back on releasing Hollingworth’s name when he was asked yesterday whether the man deserved an apology from the police for being wrongfully arrested.

“I think that’s the downfall, quite honestly, of social media in that oftentimes other people may think they know how it is and names get floated. . . . We anticipated releasing the name and photograph once the investigation was brought to a further conclusion,” he said. “But as you now know, it took a turn last night, and we did not release the information. But there has been a name that was sent out there, and I’m not exactly sure how that now gets addressed because he did not commit a crime last night.”

Duval reflected at length yesterday, at times with frustration, on how social media aggravated the situation Tuesday night.

He said rumors that a bomb had gone off and there had been a hostage situation fed fears “that were baseless, quite honestly.” Late Tuesday evening, a school official had to dispel a report that people had been shot after students who were painted with fake blood for their parts in the zombie movie were seen leaving the building.

Duval said he was also fielding calls from media as far away as New York, some from individuals trying to confirm or dispel misinformation.

“The more you say, ‘No, this didn’t happen,’ then you get responses, ‘Then what did happen?’ While at the same time we’re trying to figure out what the reality was, in the midst of the incident,” he said. “So it becomes tough.”

He said most concerning was seeing how reports of a threat at the school drew individuals to the building.

“I’ve been told there were people that were telling other people, ‘Something’s happening at the high school, you need to go,’ ” he said. “Which is very troubling to me.”

(Monitor staff reporter
Annmarie Timmins contributed to this story. Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or
tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)

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Legacy Comments12

I am not in favor of this minor being put in jail. I am more in favor of her doing community service work. That to me would be a better learning experience and just might open her eyes to the rewards of helping others. I also am in favor of the parents paying what they can afford towards the cost of the police, etc. Kids learn from their parents. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Kids are born pure. They learn from parents and their environment.

Really? I am not i am favor putting her in jail 1. she old enough to be charged as an adult 2. she knows better than to make a false report 3. she knows better not to lie. Kids learn from there parents she old enough to know better. she not some 5-6 year old child.

Mom: Wrong response. Your daughter needs to be held accountable. Parents, like you, often do not. So the schools and the courts must. Sounds like neither you nor the girl understand the magnitude of her lies. Best thing you can do for her now is to let her take her full punishment. It will make her a much better person later in life. Citizens of Concord are counting on the police to bring forth serious charges quickly.

No surprise there Curtis. Look at the parents that defended their kids getting caught drinking in the parking lot at a dance. I am still waiting for a parent to step up and have their kid apologize in this newspaper for their actions. Many moons ago when I was a kid, if I screwed up anywhere, the first thing my mother did was march me down to the person and apoligize. I stole a piece of candy one day and got caught. I was marched down to that store had to apoligize and work at that store for a day sweeping, stalking shelves, etc. I learned my lesson believe me.

RabbitNH, I stole a comic book when I was a kid, and my mother did the same thing. Last time I ever took anything that didn't belong to me.

Ha Ha, Waltham. In those days parents saw how their kids behaved as a reflection on them. Responsibility, admitting your mistakes, and teaching lessons was the norm. Today it is excuses, rewarding kids for not achieving, and pretty much giving them the message they are free to act and behave the way they want. Sad.

Personally i rather have them smoke and drink in parking lot than drive and smoking. you were force to apologize there a better way is to do it yourself.

What do the police mean charges may be filed? Also what does the girl's mother mean, her daughter can't be arrested because she's a minor?

While I agree that the man "deserved an apology from the police for being wrongfully arrested", I find it fascinating that The Monitor and/or its reporters do not seem to feel that THEY should offer an apology for naming him. Rather, they seem more concerned that the "inadvertently" provided name was misspelled.

So they immediately arrest and charge the boy on the girls "story" but, now that there are actual facts about the girl lying to the police about the entire thing, they are "considering" bringing charges.

WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO CHARGE THE REAL PERPETRATOR IN THIS CASE?!?!?! THE ENTIRE CITY OF CONCORD IS WAITING . . . . .

It's not just Concord that's waiting.

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