Bethlehem Ponders Tighter Security After Visit By Watervliet Man
By Pug Ransom
Published November 22nd, 2014
I-85 near Slingerland Price Chopper (©2015—The Albany Smudge)
SLINGERLANDS, NY — Bethlehem Central schools were locked down Thursday after panic swept through the upper middle-class town when a Watervliet man was spotted at the Slingerlands Price Chopper.
Jack Randolph Razzoli, 29, of Watervliet walked out of the supermarket and approached a Delmar woman in the parking lot to ask for directions back to Route 85 toward Albany, police said. The woman, Cecily Tomaka, immediately urged her three naturally gifted children to run back to the family mini-van and lock the doors as she hurriedly rummaged through her purse for pepper spray.
"All I heard was, 'Excuse me, miss, but I'm from Watervliet,' and that's when I panicked," said Tomaka. "I'm not sure what he was doing here, but I wasn't about to take any chances. This is a nice area. I mean, what's next? People from Cohoes?"
When police arrived Razzoli explained he missed his intended exit on 85, ending up in the Slingerlands — Bethlehem's cultural center and home to both a Chinese and Italian restaurant.
"I was lost," Razzoli said. “I thought I'd ask someone how to get back on 85 and the next thing you know, I'm getting sprayed in the eyes."
Police eventually let Razzoli go, noting even though he was from Watervliet they did not have enough to hold him.
"But just to be safe, we had a patrol follow him to the 85 onramp and assigned officers to all access roads leading into town for the remainder of the day," said a police spokesman.
Officials called an emergency Town Council meeting for Thursday night to discuss the incident and review whether there is a need to better secure the town’s borders as a result of what happened. New York National Guard officials are expected to attend the meeting, officials said.
Despite the widespread panic not everyone in Bethlehem seemed bothered. Jane Swift, who owns a Patchouli store at Delmar's four corners, said she used Razzoli's unexpected visit as an educational opportunity for her daughter, Sunbeam.
"I think we need to teach our children about diversity," said Swift. "They need to know that not everyone dresses in Izods and interns for a state senator. All of us are worthy of love and dignity — even people from Watervliet."