Cops: Man at Ridge school was there for 'legitimate purpose'

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The man who unsuccessfully tried to pick up a first grader from a Ridge school never came back that day because he asked the boy's mother, waiting outside, to go in for the child, Suffolk police said Monday after an investigation.

Ridge Elementary School officials called police last Wednesday to report the incident, but a Seventh Precinct investigation has concluded a school employee had "misunderstood" the student's name. The incident set off a public hunt for what appeared to be a suspicious man, whose image from school surveillance cameras was released by police to media.

"No child was ever really in any legitimate danger," said Sgt. Christopher Corsino of the precinct's crime section. "It was a misunderstanding, but the bottom line is the school did a very good job. There was no chance of anybody getting taken out of the school correctly."

The man had attempted to sign out a 6-year-old boy at 3:25 p.m. and identified himself as "Stevens," police said.

After being told he was not authorized to pick up the student, the man left, telling school personnel he would get the boy's mother from a car. But the man did not return, and the school notified police.

Crime section officers looked at school surveillance footage and compiled a list of about a dozen school visitors to check out, Corsino said.

The first home they visited turned out to be the woman who went into the school after the man left, he said.

"It turns out it was the mother of the child he was looking for," he said.

The mother gave her child's name, a different one than the employee had heard from the man, so no one thought the two visitors were together until officers investigated, Corsino said.

"The staffer at the school thought he was looking for someone else," he said. "Why, I don't know. I'm just happy it was a misunderstanding and the child was never in any danger."

With Gary Dymski

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