Danvers officials address detective’s accidental gunshot during St. John’s Prep ‘swatting’ incident

The detective reported that a piece of equipment got in the way while he was holstering his firearm, resulting in the accidental shot.

A St. John’s Prep student is embraced as he arrives at the parking lot of a Stop and Shop after a threat of an active shooter on the school’s campus locked down the school Monday. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Danvers police detective whose accidental shot sparked panic and confusion during a “swatting” incident at St. John’s Prep Monday fired his gun at the floor while trying to holster the firearm, town and police officials explained. 

In a Thursday press release, the town offered more details about what happened after the Danvers Police Emergency Center received a hoax call that someone was in a St. John’s Prep bathroom with a long gun and an intention to harm students. 

The officer who fired the accidental shot, Det. Christopher Gaffney, was among four officers who arrived on campus within two minutes of being dispatched, according to the release.

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The officers proceeded to a first-floor bathroom in Brother Benjamin Hall to investigate, and Gaffney later reported that as he went to holster his weapon, “his index finger was extended along the side of the barrel, which is consistent with his training, and that a secondary piece of equipment interfered with the holstering process, resulting in a single shot being discharged and striking the bathroom tile floor next to the officer’s foot.”


There were no students or faculty inside the bathroom or nearby at the time, and none of the officers were injured, the town said. 

The press release identified Gaffney as an 11-year Danvers Police Department veteran assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division since September 2019. Boston 25 News reported that Gaffney has not been placed on leave, but has taken a few days off. 

A number of people were inside Brother Benjamin Hall at the time of the accidental discharge and called 911, Headmaster Edward P. Hardiman said at a press conference Monday. Danvers Police Chief James P. Lovell said the incident prompted a larger law enforcement response.

St. John’s cancelled classes Tuesday for its middle and high school students, The Boston Globe reported. When students returned to campus Wednesday, they were met with comfort dogs and individuals trained in the School Threat Assessment and Response System program. 

The Danvers Police Department continues to investigate Monday’s incident and is awaiting additional documentation from the Massachusetts State Police Ballistics Unit, according to the press release. The department also plans to request an independent review from the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. 

Danvers police will use information gleaned from the investigation and reviews to “take any corrective actions and recommend training deemed appropriate,” according to the release.


“We recognize that Monday’s events at St. John’s Prep caused a significant amount of fear and angst for not only those present at the Prep that day, but also to our broader community,” the town said. “We are confident that we can take the lessons learned from these events and work together to effect change that will further ensure the safety of our schools and community. We thank you for your continued support.”


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