When an emotionally disturbed 18-year-old man walked through an open front door at P.S. 28Q in Corona on Sept. 15 and became “agitated and combative” with school staff as he attempted to harm himself, Principal Robert Quintana jumped into action to protect his school community.
The incident occurred shortly before dismissal time when Quintana, who practices jiujitsu martial arts, joined a school aide in bringing the suspect to the ground, where a school safety agent handcuffed him.
Police responded to a 911 call at the school, located at 109-10 47th Ave., at approximately 1:47 p.m., according to the NYPD.
The man was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens for further evaluation, police said.
Following the incident, Quintana and his staff members received a standing ovation by members of Community Education Council (CEC) District 24 during a virtual meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
“I just want to congratulate Principal Quintana and his staff. They did an amazing job. They prevented the situation from escalating, and they’re true heroes and should be recognized as that,” said Matthew Crescio, president of CEC 24.
CEC 24 Superintendent Dr. Madelene Chan said that the council is grateful to Quintana for his valiant efforts in taking down the suspect, and ensuring the safety of the students and staff members.
“When I look in the dictionary under hero, I have found a person who is admired or idolized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. When I think of that definition, I think of my 43 principals because they will always do what is best for the community,” Chan said. “We are thankful that [Principal Quintana] is OK, and we just wanted to take a moment and say thank you from the bottom of our hearts as a community.”
Humbled by their remarks hailing him a hero, Quintana thanked everyone, but credited his staff members, saying he couldn’t have done it alone.
“I was doing my job. That is my family, and I will always protect my family, and I would do it again,” Quintana said. “The people around you in your environment reflect who you are, and clearly I’m in a wonderful district with a wonderful CEC and superintendent, and a wonderful staff that did jump in and help.”
According to Quintana, his greatest takeaway from the incident is an appreciation for time, which can turn in an instant.
“We certainly should take an opportunity, not only to have conversations and make changes in the city and district that will make our community safer, but also to take the time to reflect on it and to appreciate what we should do with that time,” Quintana said. “For me, it’s giving someone you love an extra kiss or saying something nice that you might not normally say to someone.”
After acknowledging the heroic actions of Quintana, school safety and other staff members, CEC 24 members expressed their disappointment in the NYPD 110th Precinct’s response time to the incident.
According to Crescio, it took police officers 19 minutes to arrive at the scene.
“If somebody did drop the ball, it won’t happen again in the future. Luckily, there weren’t any weapons involved, but next time there could be, and to have someone in the building at 19 minutes, that’s ridiculous,” Crescio said.
Crescio added that he has reached out to the 110th Precinct and Community Affairs via phone and email, as well as DOE security director Mark Rampersant regarding the precinct’s response time.
“I have not received any response back at this time, and it is concerning,” Crescio said. “I will be following up on this matter.”
CEC member Dmytro Fedkowskyj suggested scheduling a meeting with all parties involved to address the matter and figure out a solution as soon as possible.
“After we’ve been told numerous times that we have plenty of security in our schools, it is unconscionable that the response time was what it was, and I would like clarity on that as well,” Fedkowskyj said.
Another member added, “Even without a weapon, if that guy had gotten to a child, he could’ve killed him with his bare hands. I don’t think having a weapon was a criteria; he was a weapon.”
Crescio said the incident has furthered the argument of locking all school doors, and calling for the possibility of placing more safety school agents.
“Every principal I’ve talked to in our district wants the doors locked,” Crescio said. “I’m hoping in the very near future, we will get a response from the city in regards to this, which I think will be favorable to that opinion.”
Johanna Pineda said parents are very concerned about the issue.
“Our district is bigger and they’re supposed to give us more security,” Pineda said. “We can’t sit around thinking ‘what if.’ I believe this is the right time to do something about it.”
Chan said she feels very confident that this unfortunate issue will be an impetus resulting in positive change that parents have been asking for.