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Man arrested after making controversial comments about school safety

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EAST HAVEN, CT (WFSB) -

A North Haven parent said he found "flaws" in security at his daughter's school three times in a week and a half, however he was arrested Tuesday night for making comments on social media.

Angelo Appi Jr. said his 11-year-old daughter attends Joseph Melillo Middle School in East Haven.

Being concerned about the school's safety, he took a camera inside the building and recorded his actions.

"It's not safe," Appi said. "I went to go pick up my daughter from school. I noticed the front door of the school wide open and I got concerned."

Appi said he has come to the school twice and was able to walk right through unlocked doors. He added that he roamed through the halls without anyone saying anything to him or being approached by security.

Appi entered the school once after normal school hours and the other time on a weekend. It was not during school hours, Appi said.

"Now this raises a concern among my kids and other kids at the school," Appi said.

In the video, you see Appi opening unlocked doors, he said no one stopped him.

In a second instance where Appi questions school security, he said a fire alarm was going off on the weekend, and the fire department didn't respond for an hour.

Eyewitness News talked with the fire department. They told the station the alarm was never pulled, it malfunctioned. Fire officials said someone called to let them know it was going off and showed up two minutes later.

However, his comments on Facebook got him in hot water.

"Maybe I'll have to walk in with toy guns just to prove a point. Then again, maybe someone might beat me to it with the real thing," Appi said on his Facebook page. 

Police said they received more than 50 calls after the Facebook comment was posted and more than double that number were received at Joseph Melillo Middle School.

"I guess some parents got alarmed," Appi said. "They thought maybe I would do some harm to students, but I'm very active with the school."

Appi, who works for a security company in Norwalk, told police that it was his First Amendment right to make that comment, however investigators said that is not true. 

"The comment made by Mr. Appi is not protected speech and is akin to yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater or 'bomb' in an airport when no such threat exists. Mr. Appi's comments caused alarm and concern for a significant number of parents whose children attend Joseph Melillo Middle School," police said in a statement Wednesday.

Appi was charged with breach of peace Tuesday and turned himself in to police Tuesday night.

Many East Haven parents said they have heard all about these videos.

"My opinion is I think he's doing it to get against East Haven," Charlotte Gargiulo said.

"I think anytime a parent sees something like that and they're uncomfortable with it, they should definitely speak up," Heather Maida said.

Eyewitness News talked with the East Haven Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Portia S. Bonner, on Wednesday.

"Concerning the incident at EH Middle School, it is an ongoing investigation being handled by the police. We as a district are being vigilant and mindful of the security needs, not only for the Middle School, but all the schools in the district," Bonner said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

On Dec. 14, 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Bonner said since the school shooting, the high school has security guards in place from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and at the middle school until 2:30 p.m.

Bonner said they are considering having security guards at the middle school until 10 p.m.  and recently applied for a security grant. The school system was denied when they applied the first time.

Appi said he thinks there needs to be more school security.

"So you mean to tell me my daughter's safety isn't as important in peak hours as in after hours? That's not a good explanation," Appi said.

Appi said he plans to continue speaking out.

"The parents need to know there's a risk and if I don't show video proof there is nothing for the public to know," Appi said.

Appi was released on a $5,000 bond and is expected to be arraigned at New Haven Superior Court on Nov. 30.

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