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News

DEATH THREATS: Troubling Images Sent To Hackensack School Board Members NOT Up For Re-Election

"There have been recent debates with the Board of Education and the teacher's union during the last few Board of Education meetings. However, it is a normal occurrence and nothing out of the ordinary," according to a Hackensack police report.
"There have been recent debates with the Board of Education and the teacher's union during the last few Board of Education meetings. However, it is a normal occurrence and nothing out of the ordinary," according to a Hackensack police report. Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Hackensack police are investigating threatening letters sent to two school board members that include photos of their faces in the crosshairs of a gun with blood dripping from bullet holes in their foreheads.

Capt. Darrin DeWitt, the department's officer in charge, said city detectives are tracing the source of the letters sent to neighbors Michael Oates and Scott James-Vickery. They have assistance from their Bergen County law enforcement partners.

"You will be taken out by vote or by force," the mailing says.

Neither Oates nor James-Vickery are up for re-election, nor have they recently been involved in any particularly controversial decisions. Although there have been public exchanges between board members and teachers' union representatives, these are "a normal occurrence and nothing out of the ordinary," a police report says.

So the motivation, at this point, remains a mystery.

"No one else has gotten the mailings," which carried a return address of the city's municipal complex on Central Avenue, DeWitt noted.

James-Vickery hails from Tupelo, Mississippi, famously known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. He's used to being told to "go back to the sticks" and once got mail that included his kids' names -- but this was "by far the most threatening."

Oates, a city fire lieutenant who coaches baseball and softball in town, blamed "a coward behind a computer” and said it would take "a lot more than a couple of copy [and] pastes to scare us.”

The Bergen County Sheriff's Bureau of Criminal Identification was processing the mailings. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office was reviewing and monitoring social media posts that might produce clues.

Meanwhile, the Hackensack Board of Education posted a notice on its website: "This past weekend, two Board Trustees received mailed death threats to their homes. The District takes these matters seriously and publicly denounces all acts of intimidation, aggression and threats of violence to any members of its school community. The Board of Education will fully cooperate with the Hackensack Police Department in their investigation and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law."

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