Palmer Schools Placed on Lockdown as Violent Incident Occurs in Thorndike

Police investigate the crime scene in Thorndike. Photo credit to

Aislinn Connon, Editor-in-Chief

Palmer Public Schools and Pathfinder Regional Schools were left in a state of confusion and terror Friday as a lockdown was ordered early in the afternoon. The lockdown was a response to a local home invasion in Thorndike. The suspect has been identified as 31-year-old John Leo Girouard.

Shots heard on Pine Street was what prompted bystanders to call the police, and it took hours before the situation was cleared up.

Several reports came in before noon that a man had entered the home and assaulted the resident with a knife; others claimed that the man had a handgun and was out for blood. It was discovered that the invader was only armed with a knife, and that the shots came from another man trying to defend himself and his property. This man’s name has not been released.

Palmer High School was ordered to go into lockdown immediately, due to the short distance the school is from where the incident occurred. Principal Susan North initially announced over the intercom that a man dressed in a white T-shirt and camo pants was outside the building, and that he was armed with both a gun and a knife.

As students scrambled to find a place to hide and barricade themselves, many took the time to call their parents or guardians and alert them of the situation, obviously under the impression that this was an extreme threat. It soon became apparent that most students had no idea what they were hiding from, and many resorted to searching online to figure out what exactly was going on. The lockdown lasted around two hours.

Meanwhile, authorities were busy pursuing Girouard, who had taken off into the woods surrounding Thorndike. A Massachusetts State Police helicopter as well as K-9 units were dispatched to aid officers on their search.

As the school day drew to a close, Palmer police urged school administration to keep Palmer High locked down, since Girouard was still at large. Students were kept almost an hour after the last bell rang, and when they were released at around 2:45 p.m., it was handled with extreme caution. Students were ordered that those taking the bus would be allowed to leave before anyone else, followed by those being picked up by their parents, and then those who walked. Buses were loaded one at a time, and all walkers had to be escorted off the campus by police as an extra safety measure.

Many students are not pleased with how dire the announcements made the situation sound. A junior who requested to be kept anonymous expressed her distaste for the event with, “I think the announcements were very vague. There were people crying, panicking, and screaming. Some people in the room thought it was a life or death situation when it was far from the case. The first thing I heard was that there was a shooter outside of the building.”

Girouard was arrested at 6 p.m. Friday evening, not far from where he originally committed the crimes. He now has to face nine charges, which include two counts of an armed home invasion, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery. He is being held on a $50,000 bail.