UPDATE: A 23-year-old student who sent Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands into lockdown after fabricating a story about seeing a man shoot himself initially stuck to the account when questioned by police before eventually admitting the hoax, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Stephanie Ballinger of Lyndhurst “insisted that she saw someone shoot himself outside the school,” Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
“She said she put her head down when it happened and didn’t know whether he drove off or stayed in the parking lot,” Higgins said.
“This went on for quite awhile,” he said of her insistence.
Ballinger eventually was arrested after admitting that she lied to her estranged husband, a U.S. Marine stationed in Florida, during a phone call this morning.
The Marine immediately called authorities in Bergen County, creating an initial confusion about where the event was supposed to have occurred — at the main campus in Paramus or the satellite in Lyndhurst.
“He didn’t know that there are separate campuses,” Higgins said.
Once Lyndhurst was pinpointed, the campus went into lockdown for nearly an hour.
Detectives stuck with the case, telling Ballinger they’d found a similar car as she described but no shell casings or evidence of any kind that such an incident occurred.
Eventually, they took Ballinger into custody on charges of creating a false public alarm and lying to police, the chief said.
Ballinger, who Higgins said is pregnant with the couple’s second child, was released without bail pending a court hearing.
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