A 46-year-old man allegedly stalking a female employee of Hampton Bays High School after hours at a lacrosse game was cuffed last week for trespassing when he refused to leave the grounds, then was later found to have ammo in his pocket and a semi-automatic rifle in his truck in the school parking lot, Southampton Town Police said.
According to police, at approximately 6 PM on April 17, Todd Tuttle of Hampton Bays was spotted by an employee, who called police to the high school to report a case of possible stalking. Tuttle tried to fool police by saying he was watching his son play at the lacrosse game, but he was called on his lie and was asked to leave but he refused, police said.
Police said the woman, who has not been named because she is the victim of a crime, was being repeatedly stalked by Tuttle for several weeks, stemming from a domestic conflict between the woman’s and suspect’s families.
Tuttle was placed under arrest for trespassing, and then the scenario “unfolded” from there, according to Lieutenant James Kiernan.
Further police investigation found he had a loaded magazine in his pants pocket and a 9mm Stag Rifle, which matched the magazine, in his truck in the school parking lot, Kiernan said.
He could not say how many rounds of ammunition were inside the magazine, only that it was loaded.
Two loose rounds were also found in Tuttle’s truck along with the rifle, the lieutenant added.
Kiernan did not offer any speculation as to what motivated Tuttle to bring the rifle to school. Nor did he offer any further details into the case, citing an ongoing investigation. He could not remember a gun being found on school premises during his tenure with the police force.
“Everything that we have investigated regarding weapons on school grounds so far have turned out to be BB guns — or toys even. In my tenure and the detective division this would be the first gun on school grounds,” he said.
Kiernan said police placed the incident on high priority.
“It is very serious. Obviously, we have been warned over and over again, and we get these wake-up calls. Unfortunately, we get them way too often, so when it happens here, we want to do everything we can to investigate it fully and work with the [Suffolk County District Attorney’s] Office. The fortunate part about our department and the school districts in this town is we are on the same page,” he noted.
Kiernan said “everybody’s first priority is the safety of the students.” Any intel is shared immediately between the police and the schools, an open line of communication that aids in preventing “bad things” from happening, the lieutenant noted.
“They were smart to call,” he added.
Police continued their investigation Wednesday morning, while their experts determined if the magazine went with the rifle. A K-9 unit was deployed to check for any other guns on the property, Kiernan said. There was no indication anyone else was involved in the incident, only Tuttle, he said.
The high school was placed on a modified lockdown — preventing students and staff from leaving the building — for about an hour to allow police to investigate.
School Superintendent Lars Clemensen said classes proceeded as normal and kept parents up-to-date through robocalls and social media posts.
“I think that we have a very strong school/home relationship, so there was no panic,” he said.
Clemensen credited the school’s security team and the police department for the way they handled the incident.
“Thankfully, we don’t deal with something like this every day. Even if we have to, there are many talented professionals who want to keep kids safe,” he said.
Tuttle, who has a landscaping business, was slapped with a felony charge of unlawful possession of a weapon on school grounds, and misdemeanor charges of third-degree criminal trespass and fourth-degree stalking.
Tuttle pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Southampton Town Justice Court and was released on $10,000 cash bail last Wednesday. The court issued an order of protection barring Tuttle from having any further contact with the victim or her family.
The day after his release, he returned to the high school and was “going back and forth outside,” in violation of the order of protection, and was rearrested, Lt. Kiernan said.
At press time, Tuttle was being held in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead on $50,000 bail. In the event he makes bail, he will be required to wear an ankle bracelet fitted with a GPS, to allow law enforcement to track his location, Kiernan said.
If convicted of the weapons charge, Tuttle could serve up to four years in a state prison.
Tuttle’s only other previous brush with the law was a petit larceny charge, in November 2013, according to an online report. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $350 by Justice J. Richard Ehlers in Riverhead Justice Court one month later, according to published reports.
Attempts to contact Tuttle after his initial arrest were unsuccessful. It is not clear if he has retained an attorney. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday, April 27.
Detectives are continuing their investigation and ask that anyone with information regarding this case call them at 631-702-2230.