WOONSOCKET – A local woman has been cleared of wrongdoing following her arrest on charges of pointing her fingers like a gun at an elementary school teacher and pretending to shoot her.
Vanice Armstrong, 26, of 170 Cumberland St., was arrested on Dec. 18, four days after the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
District Court Judge Christine Jabour found Armstrong not guilty of disorderly conduct after a one-day trial on Monday, court officials say.
Police Prosecutor Jon D. Brien said the teacher who made the complaint, Ann Richards, was the only witness and her testimony that Armstrong made the threatening gesture was uncontested.
“The judge thought the behavior was certainly inappropriate and in poor taste, but it did not rise to standard of criminal disorderly conduct,” said Brien.
The teacher reported that Armstrong was walking past the Robinson Street facility with children when she made eye contact with her through a window and laughed as she made “shooting” gestures at her with her hands. Police responded and took Armstrong into custody after a brief struggle.
“This happened right after the shootings in Newtown and we weren’t taking any chances,” said Detective Jamie Paone, the Woonsocket police spokeswoman. “But I’m still surprised she wasn’t convicted.”
Though Armstrong did not testify, on the day she was arrested she denied making the shooting gesture.
“She said she was dancing and playing with her kids,” Paone said. “She told the officers they were overreacting.”
When Armstrong was arrested, the Woonsocket police were among scores of law enforcement agencies providing stepped-up security for schools in their districts after the Newtown shootings, committed by Adam Lanza, an emotionally-troubled 20-year-old from the small town in western Connecticut. He also killed his mother that day and took his own life after the massacre.