Teacher charged with threatening school said he would ‘shoot up the place,’ cops say

The special education teacher was in court Thursday

The faculty member at a Cranford school who was arrested last week for allegedly making terroristic threats against the school where he works will undergo a court-ordered mental health evaluation. 

On Thursday, Matthew Acosta, 33, of Kenilworth, who works at Orange Avenue School, appeared in front of State Superior Court Judge Daniel R. Lindemann for a detention hearing. 

Lindemann granted prosecutors’ motion to detain Acosta, pending a mental health screening for dangerousness, Mark Spivey, a spokesperson from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, said.

Acosta will have another court hearing will following completion of the evaluation, he said.

Man arrested for threatening school where he works, cops say

Neither Cranford Police nor Orange Avenue School officials have detailed the nature of the alleged threat toward the school.

The affidavit of probable cause in the case, obtained Thursday, alleges Acosta “appeared to have a tough time adjusting to being a Special Education Teacher” and was angry at two other teachers who he worked with in the classroom.

“Matthew was adamant that his co-teachers were out to get him and he should just bring a gun to school and shoot up the place,” detectives wrote in the affidavit.

Acosta also stated that he had guns, the affidavit says.

When he said that in a conversation with a school employee, they asked if he was joking. Acosta replied, “not you, well, where are you during what period?” The co-worker asked Acosta again if he was just making a joke and he said “yeah, yeah.” 

A close family friend who spoke with NJ Advance Media this week, with the condition of anonymity, said the situation must have arisen out of some sort of miscommunication. (NJ Advance Media talked to the friend before obtaining the affidavit.)

“(Acosta) is not a violent person,” the friend said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Superintendent Scott Rubin has said a staff member reported the threat to the school’s principal, who then contacted police. 

In an email to families in the district, Rubin called the incident “extremely unsettling,” but added that there was no current threat to the school. 

-Reporter Joe Brandt contributed to this story.

Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. 

 

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