Federal officials are scrambling to calm Brooklyn Heights parents after a wanted man bolted from a controversial parole office at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton streets and sent gun-toting cops scrambling in hot pursuit moments before classes at the St. Ann’s School let out for the day.
Since July, the private school has shared space with a federal parole office in the Bruce Ratner-owned One Pierrepont Plaza building — and parents have continued to express concern that parolees and their kids should not be mingling so closely.
Those fears were realized on Sept. 23, when an ex-con, who was wanted in a separate assault case, showed up for his scheduled parole appointment only to find two plainclothes officers waiting for him.
The felon, sensing the sting, raced out of the building with two officers in hot pursuit. A third officer briefly reached into his jacket — possibly to pull his service pistol, though the gun was never out in the open, a witness said.
Meanwhile, the ex-con, who is on parole after serving out a drug-related charge, jumped into a getaway car and has not yet been found.
“This is exactly the type of incident that St. Ann’s administrators and parents were continually assured had never, and would never, happen at the probation office,” said St. Ann’s headmaster Lawrence Weiss. “Nor did we have any reason to expect that a major security breach, followed by an armed chase, would take place within weeks of the opening of the new office.”
To calm Weiss and school parents’ fears, federal officials hastily changed the nature of the parole office, which was created this summer to consolidate two existing parole offices nearby, one on Livingston Street in Downtown and Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights. Now registered sex offenders will no longer meet their parole officers in the building, and instead have their appointments at the courthouse on Cadman Plaza East, said the court’s chief probation officer, Tony Garoppolo.
“The move probably wouldn’t have happened until January, but [the judge] speeded it up as an accommodation to the St. Ann’s people,” Garoppolo said. “It doesn’t make Pierrepont Street any safer than it already is, but it’s just to ease the understandable anxiety of parents.”
Garappolo said he could not comment on the incident itself because it is currently under investigation.
When the center opened, Chief Judge Raymond Dearie had told parents that there had never been any parole office-related incidents at the Brooklyn Heights or Downtown offices, and promised that the criminals would enter in different doors from the students and that sexual offenders would not be in the building at the same time as students.
But detectives have long viewed parole appointments as an opportune time to arrest parolees with new arrest warrants because the alleged criminals will show up at a certain time and are typically unarmed.