Former football coach arrested over alleged school shooting threats to Brown, UConn | #schoolsaftey

Content warning: This article contains discussions of gun violence and suicide.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 401-863-3476 or, for immediate help, Brown EMS at 401-863-4111 or the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at 401-863-4111.

Bristol, Connecticut police arrested Dennis “DJ” Hernandez on July 19 for allegedly planning school shootings at both Brown and the University of Connecticut, according to an NBC Connecticut article. Hernandez is currently in custody in Hartford, Connecticut, CTInsider reported, and is prohibited from possessing firearms.

Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management Rodney Chatman shared in an email to the Brown community that the Department of Public Safety could “determine there was no imminent threat to Brown.” Hernandez served as an assistant football coach for the University more than a decade ago.

On July 18, following an incident report that Hernandez was demonstrating “very erratic behavior,” Bristol police alerted DPS of threats made by Hernandez to the University, Chatman wrote. The Department “implemented protective measures immediately” and continued to follow developments in Connecticut. DPS also alerted Providence Police, according to the email. 

While Bristol police’s incident report states that police were informed Hernandez had visited Brown and UConn’s campus in Storrs, Connecticut in early July to “map the schools out,” DPS’s “investigation to date indicates that he had not been on Brown’s campus in the weeks prior to arrest,” the email reads. 

In an email to The Herald, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Campus Safety and Emergency Management Stacey Adams wrote that while DPS’s investigation indicates that Hernandez did not go to Brown, DPS “can’t say with certainty whether he was in the Providence area, as has been reported.” 

According to Adams, DPS’s investigation took place through partnerships with law enforcement agencies and relied on policing technology and communications with members of the community. 

Adams added that “DPS will, of course, consider all available information related to the suspect and his time at Brown during the course of our efforts to investigate.” According to her, DPS remains in contact with Bristol Police and “will continue to do so regarding any new developments that may have an impact on Brown” as Hernandez’s charges move forward. 

Hernandez had previously been arrested in March for throwing a bag containing a brick and a note onto ESPN’s campus in Connecticut. On July 1, Hernandez failed to appear in court and was ordered re-arrested. 

Hernandez is the brother of Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots who committed suicide in 2017 after being convicted on charges of first-degree murder in 2015. In the note thrown onto ESPN property, Hernandez wrote “To all media outlets, It’s about time you all realeyes the affect media has on all family members,” ESPN reported.

“As is necessary for any campus, we are prepared to act both preventatively and in response in the event of a threat or an incident,” wrote Adams. She added that DPS carries out “robust active shooter response training” with their officers and operates Brown Alert, a system that allows DPS “to contact thousands of individuals in minutes if there is an urgent situation or crisis.” 

Adams also recommended that all members of the Brown community review the University’s Hostile Intruder(s) Emergency Response Guidance, “which outlines the importance of the Run, Hide, Fight approach to employ in a situation where an intruder is actively trying to cause harm,” she wrote.

Julia Vaz

Julia Vaz is a Metro editor covering the environment and crime and justice beats. She is a sophomore from Brazil studying Political Science and Literary Arts. 

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