PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Maddie Pirri was making her rounds at Portsmouth High School Tuesday when she was alerted to an assault in progress at the school’s new gymnasium.
The school resource officer sprang into action and soon arrived to find a physical education teacher in hysterics, saying she had just been assaulted by a man trying to get into the gym. The teacher told Pirri the suspect had left and ran towards the school’s main office.
In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News Wednesday, Pirri said her own safety was secondary at that point.
“More importantly, I was concerned to find this guy and detain him because it could have been a tragic event,” she said.
Pirri said she made her way to the office and located the man, though not quite how she expected.
“As soon as I entered the main office, I did observe the suspect in the main office sitting down,” Pirri recalled. “Just casually sitting.”
Schlip, 22, denied the assault, according to Pirri, but because of multiple 911 calls from students identifying him as the perpetrator, she arrested him. A 7-inch, military-style blade was found in his backpack.
Pirri commended the students for calling police, as well as the teachers for keeping them safe in the locker room.
“Of course, that’s a very frightening experience for the kids to witness,” she added.
Pirri said her ability to respond in just seconds is exactly why resource officers are needed in schools.
“We are prepared, ready, and trained properly to handle any situation that would happen,” she said.
Acting Principal Paige Kirwin-Clair said the administration is reviewing its policies to see how it can improve the safety of students and staff.
Schlip was arraigned Tuesday on a felony assault charge and was ordered to report to Butler Hospital for evaluation. He was also ordered to stay away from the school and the teacher he’s accused of attacking, who’s now recovering, according to school officials.
Police said the motive behind the assault is still unknown.