It was a typical Thursday for Dr. Jory Westberry, the faculty, staff and students at Tommie Barfield Elementary, until shortly after 1 PM.
“We received word that there was a man with a rifle that appeared to be heading toward the vicinity of the schools,” explains Westberry of the Jan. 15 incident. “We immediately went into Code Red. Our main concern was that he had a rifle.”
According to a statement released by the Marco Island Police Department, at 1:13 PM, MIPD was dispatched to the area of Front Street and Marco Lake Drive where there was a report of a suspicious male with gun. Witnesses reported the man had pointed a gun at passing motorists. Responding MIPD units set up a perimeter in the area, and shortly thereafter, a second “suspicious male” call was received in the area of North Collier Boulevard and East Elkcam Circle.
At 1:55 PM, MIPD officers located the man — identified as 33-year-old Gamariel Pacaios Gonzales of Marco Island — and took him into custody at 1100 N. Collier Blvd. Subsequently, officers located a toy rifle partially concealed in the backyard of a house in the 600 block of 6th Avenue, one block away from the location where Gonzales was arrested. He later was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of resisting arrest with violence. Currently, Gonzales is being held in the Collier County Jail; his bond will be set by a judge.
Because the initial reports were in close proximity to TBE, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Island Montessori School, all schools were put into lockdown. For TBE, this meant a Code Red status, which means all of the shades were drawn, doors locked and all children were taken to a safe place within their classrooms far from doors and windows and out of range of glass.
MIPD School Resource Officers deployed to the schools, and Community Service and Code Enforcement personnel assisted by patrolling the perimeters of the schools and incident area. Collier County Sheriff’s Office provided significant assistance in the form of aviation, K-9, patrol and other personnel. Once the situation was identified and contained by police, the schools were placed on a cautionary Code Yellow.
Westberry commends her staff and students for their management of the situation. “The kids were perfect,” she says. “When Officer Paul (Ashby) and our Facility Manager (Dan Dupuis) went down the halls to check doors, they said you could have heard a pin drop, and that is what we want when this happens.”