Norwalk Dem mayoral hopeful blasts Moccia, says it’s not political

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk Democrat who is running for mayor on Friday criticized the lack of information flowing to parents from the mayor’s office Wednesday when there was a report of possible gunshots near Cranbury Elementary School.

It turned out to be a false alarm.

“This isn’t a political ploy for a candidate, this is about what’s right,” Vinny Mangiacopra said.

Mangiacopra was joined by Councilman David Watts (D-District A) in a hastily called press conference at City Hall. Both candidates said it wasn’t political, but Mangiacopra expressed thoughts about Mayor Richard Moccia and the three Democratic legislators who endorsed Harry Rilling for mayor Tuesday.

(story continues below video)

Mangiacopra, whose wife works at Cranbury, said his heart dropped when he heard the school was on lockdown due to possible gunfire, which was reported at about 11:20 a.m., according to Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. Mangiacopra said he immediately called someone with a police scanner to confirm the report, and then called the mayor, not to talk politics but as a concerned citizen, he said.

“When I called the mayor I immediately got through,” Mangiacopra said. “The mayor asked me how I was doing. He said I was going to win South Norwalk and he said he was on his way to cut the ribbon at the Oyster Festival. I told the mayor that that was great, but that I wasn’t calling to talk about that, but my concern was what was going on at Cranbury and was everyone going to be OK.”

That was the first Moccia heard of it, he said.

“He immediately asked if I was joking,” Mangiacopra said. “I told him no, this was a very serious concern, that the school was under lockdown. The mayor said he would call the chief and get back at me, which he did. The issue at hand today was that parents were outraged, people inside the school were in emergency procedure for 45 minutes, close to an hour. Communication that was going on from inside City Hall was nonexistent. It’s time that we start expecting more out of our leaders here.”

Moccia said, an hour after the press conference, that he was upset that Mangiacopra was using the incident as a political issue.

Kulhawik was contacting him at the same time Mangiacopra was calling, he said. Mangiacopra’s wife works at the school, and called her husband right away, Moccia said.

Moccia said he asked Kulhawik if he should go to the school.

“He said, ‘No mayor, we haven’t found anybody. It’s kind of a circus.’ I said ‘OK, keep me informed,’” Moccia said.

Mangicopra posted a photo on Facebook Thursday night of the mayor and state Sen. Bob Duff cutting the ribbon for the Oyster Festival as the school was in lockdown. He said Friday that the ribbon cutting was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. He had found out that it was delayed “a few minutes.”

“In times of emergency everything has to be dropped,” he said. “There has to be a focus on the kids in the classroom.”

Moccia said he was half an hour late to the ribbon cutting.

“Bob Duff was there,” he said. “His kid goes to Cranbury, so I wanted to let him know what was going on. In the meantime I was in contact with the chief, the deputy chief.”

Duff sent a Tweet at 12:11 p.m. “Just spoke to the mayor,” Duff said. “Everything is OK at Cranbury School. Someone heard something alarming at Cranbury Park …”

Moccia’s first Tweet was at 2:31 p.m. “NPD responded to a report of suspected gunshots at Cranbury School this morning,: Moccia wrote. “NPD found no evidence that shots were fired.”

Mangiacopra criticized the mayor for the time lag in his announcement.

“I feel there’s a better job to be done,” he said. “People need to be kept abreast. There needs to be an emergency system, communication system in place. This isn’t about the police officers, this isn’t about the great job that they did or the staff on the inside. This is about demanding more from the leaders, from the politicians. We have to make sure that our priorities are intact. It’s time that we start demanding more out of them, expecting more, regardless of who they are. If I am fortunate enough to be elected I hope that people hold me to that as well.”

Moccia said he waited until all the facts were solidified. A press release was issued. He fielded phone calls from numerous television stations.

“I don’t know what he expected that the mayor’s office was going to do,” he said. “If it was a power line down or an outage, yeah, I can do a little faster on that. But I wasn’t going to come out and start giving stuff out until I knew what the police knew.”

Should a “Notify Norwalk” call have gone out?

“That would be up to the Board of Ed. They have the numbers for all of the parents,” he said. “I think, what we learned was – it happened so fast – in my mind what we learned when we go over this, it may be that the Board of Ed could have sent out a Code Red to all of the parents saying, ‘Hey, everything is OK. Your kids are OK.’ But we’re trying to make sure of everything, but most of the procedures we put in place worked.”

Mangiacopra made reference to Duff during his press conference.

“Three Democrats that were out here a few days ago,” he said. “They said they wanted to pat themselves on the back and tell you who to vote for on Tuesday, but when Wednesday came they were nowhere to be found and it’s unfortunate.”

While Duff was at the ribbon cutting, in addition to his 12:11 Tweet while police had the Cranbury area closed to traffic, he Tweeted again at 12:17 p.m. and included an update from the Norwalk Police Department, and again a few minutes later.

Duff and state representatives Chris Perone and Bruce Morris had been at the Tuesday press conference to endorse Harry Rilling in the mayor”s race.

“No matter wins on Tuesday in the historic Democratic primary and no matter who wins in November, it’s imperative that us, as a community, we finally stand up and we demand more and we demand better out of our leaders in Norwalk,” Mangiacopra.

Asked afterwards about the timing — the Democratic mayoral primary is Tuesday — and his assertions that his comments were not political , Mangiacopra said the incident had happened this week.

“My initial reaction was I’m thankful that nothing happened. … But having digested that, and looking at the response and looking at the concern that was not only inside the school but outside the school, the families and everything it’s something that shouldn’t be swept under the rug. We need to make sure that the message is communicated out there. I can’t be the first one to tell the mayor what’s going on there. We have to be on top of this every single time,” he said.

Parents are upset they weren’t kept in the loop, he said.

Regardless, if I win on Tuesday or if I lose … everybody needs to be held accountable,” he said. “Everybody needs to have their priorities in check. We need to get out of the comfort zone that some of the politicians here in Norwalk kind of habitat in., we need to start having people who are going to be working for the people again. That means being on the ground. That’s the kind of politician I plan on being. I like our chances on Tuesday but this is nothing to do with the election. This has to do with a guy who happens to be running for mayor, with a platform to speak from, with loved ones inside the school. I felt obligated that I have to say something here today.”


23 responses to “Norwalk Dem mayoral hopeful blasts Moccia, says it’s not political”

  1. SJ

    The mayor and those “3 do nothing reps” are all about cutting ribbons. Bruce Morris cutting ribbons during school hours? I think Mr. Mangiacopra is doing that right thing by calling these clowns out. However, Norwalk needs Andy Garfunkel on Tuesday.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @SJ, et al…

      No one has reported that Bruce Morris was at the ribbon cutting. He, Chris Perrone, Bob Duff and Harry Rilling were at the post-school Tuesday afternoon press conference at City Hall. We do not know where Morris, Perone or Rilling were Wednesday morning.

      Also, we reached out to Rilling, Andy Garfunkel and Matt Miklave for comments on the situation and on the press conference Friday night. Miklave responded with “no comment.” Garfunkel and Rilling did not respond.

  2. notaffiliated

    damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If the mayor went to the school, it would have been seen as grandstanding. Since he didn’t go, it’s painted as not caring.

  3. M. Murray’s

    While every parent would want to know what is going on with their children, sometimes it is better to assess the situation before making notifications to the public. I am sure that there were many parents, friends, and onlookers that went to the scene to find out what is going on. This only hampers the professionals who are trying to assess risk and investigate the incident and make sure people are secure. An immediate notification before police secure everything would only add to the confusion and number of people at the scene. The number one priority is to keep the children safe and find out what is truly going on. A blast notification would only create more confusion before the situation coul be properly evaluated.

  4. M Allen

    Aside from Vinny’s obviously political grandstanding, what do we expect the Mayor, any Mayor, to be doing during this type of situation? Directing the investigation and police reponse? Should the Mayor have rushed to the command post?
    There was a report of shots fired in Cranbury Park. Not a report of an active shooter at the school or in the vacinity.
    Further, when should parents even be notified that something like this is occurring? In the middle of the event? Assume there was an active shooter? Do we want parent clogging the roads or parking lot of the school while the authorities handle the situation? Nobody but the proper authorities should be notified until the situation is resolved. It only leads to panic, or in the case of a real situation, people who shouldn’t be there just getting in the way.
    In this case Vinny, you probably should have just called your wife rather than making a direct call to the Mayor during what you perceived to be an emergency. Or are you advocating that all citizens should call the mayor directly during an emergency situation? Everyone call the Mayor!!! Then of course call a press conference. Foolish.

  5. Norwalk Spectator

    If it wasn’t a political issue, Vinny, why are you broadcasting it to the media? Is it because it makes you look good by saying you knew about it before the Mayor did?
    And, as M. Allen pointed out, what would having the Mayor there accomplish? Of course he’s concerned about the safety of the kids. But M. Allen is correct that until the situation is assessed, the police need to be able to do their jobs unhampered by elected officials.

  6. Oldtimer

    Moccia is an easy target and it is election time, and this is not political ? Parents worry and the mayor is expected to prevent worrying ? How should he have done that ? Thank god, there was no apparent danger, this time. We hope more will be done to protect the schools from Newtown type attacks, and this demonstrates the need. Moccia and whoever is the next mayor needs to put school security high on his to-do list.

  7. EDR

    A true lack of maturity on the part of Vinny. Disappointed in his grandstanding for political purposes. Reminds me of the boy mayor from thirty years ago Dennis Kucinich. He promised the world and nearly destroyed a great Midwest city.

  8. M Allen

    Does anyone else see this as a candidate stepping ito a huge pile of warm oatmeal days before the primary? Mistakes happen, and Mangiacopra hardliners won’t be deterred from voting for their man, but I have to imagine people on the fence will read this article, here and on the front page of the Hour, and ask themselves what this guy was thinking.
    What did Harry do during the event?

  9. SJ

    Moccia, Duff, Perone and Morris are really out of touch. All four of these clowns get healthcare and paychecks from the government. Wake up, lets kick them out of office.

    Starting with Morris, cutting ribbons during the school day. Really? Money would be better spent on a teacher or a School Resource Officer. Only in Norwalk- would people be allowed to get away with this.

    @Oldtimer I agree with your comments.

  10. spanner

    This very same thing happened to Perone his kids were in a school an actual shooting went down in front of the school and it went to lockdown and he was called to be told and his kids were inside.History repeated itself and where was Mr Perone this last time?Our politicians are not alert not street smart not able to understand how the system works and then to grandstand on our or my kids backs needs to be stopped.

    Your comments Murray are not to be taken seriously your stumping for a politician not our kids.My children have been involved as innocent victims in crossfire in this city and not even a decent response from our city officials or police dept in most of the cases over the years.

    Mr Corda took phone calls and each time(he made himself available every time he was called) when it involved kids under his direction and knew nothing about the situations(but took action asap) and there was at least a half dozen instances where actual gunfire was verified,once it was a day later when he read about it in the Hour(he wasn’t called on that incident).This is what Norwalkers want?

    Mr Morris took a call at the school administration office on a shooting at a bus stop where police went found a shooting had occured minutes before kids were to be left off and without gun and suspect left the scene so when the kids were to be dropped off there was NO POLICE OFFICER there.Calling him back I got the same crap Duff Perone and Moccia deliver to their taxpayers not their voters.Odd the shooting was in front of Burgesses old home on lincoln ave (he got out that house wonder why) and people who lived there were on the street dodging bullets that day.There is more to the story where I could slam Morris and the Mayor even more but why its all credible its all the truth its the game played for years our kids are the game pieces.

    Murry you comments dont sit well with a lot of us tell us who you are backing I’m not backing anyone I am planing on leaving this whole mess but before I do there is a story to be told.

    I spew all the time yet never have I been challenged on facts not written or reported and at this point I realize a good ole boys club exists maybe from ignorance not fact after all this these politicians are not stupid they are self serving.

    Bob Duff rides in a police cruiser tells his people how smart he is yet knows nothing about the actual crime in Norwalk if he did he would keep his mouth shut and react to things he has been told or shown.The three wise men made sure the State didn’t close offices on water st yet never took the time to understand the impact where homeless,sex offenders diddlers and drunks prey on our kids at bus stops and keep South Norwalk on the edge.What part of Norwalk would you put a Meth clinic or halfway house in,better yet who would sell an idea like that without checking facts?

    Do I care about what happens in Norwalk?Question is do you?I don’t have to prove I know whats going on you need to show me you do.This was directed to those self serving voters who have done so well to deliver what we have now.

    The shooting last night did have a good police response can’t help wonder if no one had been working overtime at the Fest would it had been the same coverage in downtown SONO.

    Last night was not a good time for a shooting in downtown Norwalk is a stupid statement the city was full of people,is asking when a good time is?pushing it with our elected officials?

    Ive always said police crime scene tape is a way of life in South Norwalk obviously a tape none of the existing politicians know how to cut.Now that new blood wants to see whats under the rug they are attacked I wonder why.

    So far we have been lucky is another absurd statement tell that to those who have lost a family member in Norwalk to voilence I won’t.

  11. Molly Henry

    This is crazy! The mayor was too busy cutting ribbons instead of staying at city hall or going to the school. The mayor should have gone to the school to address the situation, take a tour of the school to see any potential areas of weakness and talked to parents, teachers and students about their concerns. Instead he shows up after the fact. This is poor leadership. Norwalk needs a change and I am glad Mangiacopra was the only one willing to point it out.

  12. NorwalkLifer

    This is ridiculous. Moccia went to ribbon cutting during the lockdown!!!! Time for this guy to get out of office. Glad at least one of the candidates is holding him accountable.

  13. Clayton

    It’s not about being on the scene – it’s about being made aware. If a call was made and the mayor said “This is the first I heard of it.” – that shows either incompetence on either the Mayor or the administration in letting the Mayor know. Let me tell you something…Bloomberg would have known!

  14. piberman

    It’s not uncommon for gunshots to be heard around the Cranbury Park area especially during the fall “hunting’ season. But this is the first time in recent decades when school is in session. As expected the Norwalk PD and school administrators/teachers did their job to their expected professional standard. And we’ve learned something more about the qualifications and temperment of Mr. Mangiocopra.

  15. Tim T

    Sounds to me that both the NPD and the mayor were once again not up to the task. The Norwalk police Department continues to fail us under Kulhawik as with Rilling. The statement from Kulhawik “It’s kind of a circus” says it all. Hopefully whomever our next mayor is will replace Kulhawik with someone from outside the failures of the NPD that can rebuild a broken police department. We must all keep in mind that if Rilling or Moccia is elect our next mayor things will remain broken.

  16. Tim T

    Also I forgot to add I am usually not a supporter of Mangiacopra however in this case he showed leadership that Moccia and the NPD did not.

  17. spanner

    Bottom line is this isn’t the first time we have had this happen in Norwalk where taxpayers feel let down.Whats even worse most of the postings don’t include facts that would make one wonder if our kids are safe.Information can be a helpful thing to people who want to do bad but not responding to things as a politician who has given the impression they have a handle on things is worse.If a list of events at Norwalk schoools involving guns standoffs and lockdowns was listed you will find the pattern of voilence has increased in Norwalk ten fold expecting those who take the task of protecting us has diminished in manpower how can that be a good thing? You can’t lay blame on our responders on the front line but it isn’t a stretch to look behind the scenes and ask yourself have those in charge learned from mistakes and applied experience to situations like this one?Gunshots are heard every day in Norwalk residents are not as passive now when they are heard.Last night it was fireworks and drunks who called in a shooting but when they found evidence a shooting took place in SONO well you know how Norwalk officials back pedal yes we all know.This is not science and to suggest a parent doesn’t want to know or have them running to school is a bad thing why when we have a robo call in place fears can’t be eliminateed was it used?More eyes in and around a incident like this is bad?.As it is most first responders cant talk to most residents English is all they know and thats a good thing?Enough of those who think they know what a fireground or police scene is there are standards in protecting us as like most cities and until some of those surfice and yes we pay enough to have a elite force work for us there will be people who defend and attack the system Norwalk has.This like most problems the city has are tests to those in charge,for some of us who have been there and done that some solutions or resolutions 20 years ago are still not applied in Norwalk an you have to ask yourself why.Professional standards have never been in place in Norwalk as good as they should of been but enough has gone on to up those standards where trust has been earned by incidents like this.Grandstanding or uncovering facts to makes things better is a fine line for some in Norwalk its just not what good old boys do.Pay the piper keep your mouth shut and take what you can get once the city is picked clean.I’m afraid the city is picked clean by those who have had years to do so.Now what?

  18. Ken

    If I feel let down its by the clowns in Hartford, who happen to be overwhelmingly Democratic, who chose to push their gun control agenda instead of doing anything to prevent another Newtown. The same people stoke the paranoia over the whole subject. Somebody who likely never heard a gun before said they thought they heard gunshots and everyone panics like the sky is falling. We SHOULD certainly take things seriously but given the area it was in it could be a person shooting a ground hog in their garden for crying out loud.

    So now Moccia is at fault for NOT feeding the panic and making something which turned out to be an over reaction much worse. This was NOTHING & this silly continueing over reaction, trying I guess to keep the flames hot is pathetic. Democrats cant seem to pass up an opportunity to use our children for political gain.

    If you guys care about the kids then tell the Democrats to repeal their stupid new laws & repeal gun free school laws so the adults can actually do something if they care enough. Its absurd that its against the law for law abiding adults who have gone through background checks & training to obtain a pistol permit to carry in a place where people usually cant own firearms routinely go on rampages. Why make the good guys helpless? How in the world can that help?
    If you support gun free school zones then YOU are part of the problem not the solution. It really is that simple.

  19. Don’t Panic

    Twitter and facebook should not be viewed as reliable or sufficient for a municipality to get the word out. They should be an extra layer on top of a robust and reliable emergency notification plan. It would seem that we just don’t have one. What did the city do before facebook and twitter?

  20. spanner

    I take it Mayor Moccia doesn’t like the press from all over the country calling him so whoever left his number on TOPIX deserves the Hours flowers this week.

  21. Bill

    Worst “press conference” ever…totally unnecessary, and it absolutely took a potential tragedy and made it political. Funny thing is, no one who watched Mangiacopra speak could hear any coherent mesage, just babble.

  22. momma bear

    First of all, Thank you, NoN for continuing to bring us the information we need, when we need it. Editing guy isn’t to bad either;) Now, the kid said what? This “isn’t a last ditch political ploy”? Really? And he said that with a straight face? This kid is NOT ready for prime time. No fan of Moccia but he has a point. This is a non issue. Call was unfounded. Get dozens a week. Suppose every shots fired/firecracker call should mandate a a hot line alert? At what $4,000 a pop? Everyone did what they were supposed to. Consider it a drill. Now lets get on with the major business we have on hand, educating our students. btw NoN thanks for repositioning that shot of Moccia, was wondering if you noticed the light. And its all political our dearest soon to be former mayor. You know that better than anyone. Thank you for you service. Maybe Linda can create some PR position for you, after all you, did walk the walk with her. She owes you. Right?

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