Bedford, N.Y. (CBS CONNECTICUT) — A Fox Lane High School English teacher who allegedly exchanged online messages with a “medium” about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has filed a suit against the district for firing him following an FBI and police investigation into his mental health.
Adam Heller, 35, was fired by the Bedford school district after a law enforcement investigation and disciplinary hearing into alleged comments that he wanted to “kill people” in response to “government power” and “nationwide conspiracies” messages he sent to Georgia O’Connor – described in court documents as a “medium,” the Journal-News reports.
Bedford Schools Superintendent Jere Hochman said that Heller suffered from “mental illness.”
“Due to an apparent mental illness, it would create an undue risk to the safety of the students and faculty of the Bedford Central School District if you were permitted to return to your duties,” wrote Hochman.
Court documents show that Heller acquired a Russian military rifle on Dec. 14, 2012 – the same day Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 elementary school children and six adults at the Newtown, Conn., school. Two weeks after the shooting, Heller received a .22 caliber rifle from a friend.
Also in December 2012, Heller engaged in online conversations with O’Connor, where he expressed “concerns about government power and corruption, including the potential use by the government of technology to effect weather patterns and nationwide conspiracies,” according to court documents.
The messages were exchanged through the game, “Words with Friends,” an online Scrabble game that allows for private messaging between users.
Weary of Heller’s comments, the “medium”, O’Connor, reportedly contacted the FBI, who then contacted Bedford Police Chief William Hayes and Superintendent Hochman about the matter.
Bedford and Pound Ridge police launched an investigation in which they monitored Heller’s online communications and maintaining “a vigilance at the high school where he taught,” according to court records obtained by the Journal-News.
On Jan. 18, 2013, police followed Heller from the school to a Carmel gun store where he allegedly considered purchasing a .22 caliber file with a removable barrel. On his drive back, police pulled him over and asked to talk with him at his home – where Heller’s suit claims there were already eight law enforcement officers posted up.
Following police questioning, Heller was transferred to the Westchester Medical Center, and citing a “fast pulse,” was transferred to the Behavior Health Unit, where he was “involuntarily committed and, over the course of a week, seen by many doctors,” according to Heller’s lawyer, Michael Sussman.
After being told he “could return to work on Feb. 11” following his clearance discharge, Superintendent Hochman brought Heller up on disciplinary charges stemming from psychiatric evaluations. On May 12, a hearing officer terminated Heller’s employment with the school district.
“Dr. Lerman was unable to conclude whether Mr. Heller presents a risk to others because Mr. Heller failed to cooperate with the evaluation and thus it must be assumed that Mr. Heller presents such a risk,” the charges allege. “Mr. Heller expressed in an internet communication that he believed the U.S. government programmed the Newtown school shooter, which indicates that he might feel compelled to commit a similar act.”
Heller is filing suit against the firing, arguing, “The decision is arbitrary and capricious, and lacks evidentiary support and violates due process.”