By Rebecca Panico and Jenny Goldberg – Staff Writers
CRANFORD, NJ — A Union County College student was arrested during class on Monday, Feb. 26, for having three imitation firearms inside the Student Development Building on the Cranford campus.
Eric Jacobs, 20, of Millburn, was arrested by Cranford police at approximately 10 a.m. and charged with fourth-degree possession of an imitation firearm for an unlawful purpose and creating a hazardous condition, a disorderly persons offense, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said in a release. Cranford police confiscated three fake guns, one resembling a rifle and two resembling pistols.
Jaime Segal, the UCC director of college relations, told LocalSource on Feb. 26 that Cranford police were alerted by the school’s public safety officers, who had received a report from a college employee. After seeing someone who appeared to be carrying a weapon, the employee notified the school’s public safety personnel, the release said.
Vanessa Perez, who said she was in a general psychology class on the second floor of the Student Development Building, said about three Cranford police officers came into her class while it was in session, looking for someone wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and a red hat.
Two students fit that description, she said. Police first approached one who matched the description and tapped him on the shoulder, but upon realizing he wasn’t their suspect, let him sit back down. She said she overheard the professor talking to an officer and when students heard the word “gun,” they all started “freaking out.”
The officers left and then returned, this time approaching Jacobs and removing him, Perez said. He did not return, she said. Perez said officers told them he had four fake guns and noisemakers to replicate the sound of bombs.
Perez, a freshman, said she did not see any guns — or anything resembling one — on the Jacobs and expressed concern that police did not attempt to evacuate the classroom first.
“God forbid that was real,” she said, adding that the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was on her mind. “He could’ve done a lot of damage because there’s no escape route in that room.”
Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, when a former student entered the building and shot numerous people with a semiautomatic rifle.
Cranford Police Chief Ryan Greco said the police officers did not know what weapon the individual had on him when they entered the classroom, just that a student might have a gun.
Greco said the officers did not want to evacuate the classroom because they wanted to bring the individual in for questioning.
UCC alerted the school community to the arrest through email, the college broadcast system and social media, Segal told LocalSource.
“This is the best-case outcome. We are very thankful to CPD, the college employee and public safety officers,” she said.
Segal added that, in light of today’s society, the school embraces the attitude of “if you see something, say something.”
According to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible. Jacobs was still in custody as of late afternoon on Feb. 26, the release said.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact Cranford Police Detective Derek Farbanec at 908-709-7347.
Convictions on fourth-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by up to 18 months in state prison.