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Adam Heller's photo in the Fox Lane yearbook / The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News file photo

BEDFORD, N.Y. ?? School officials in New York are defending the firing of a teacher who reportedly claimed the Newtown, Conn., school shooter was programmed by the government, sought a rifle that could fit into a backpack, and expressed a desire to "kill people" and shoot down a plane.

In defending the May firing of 35-year-old Adam Heller, a Fox Lane High School English teacher, the Bedford school district argued that there was "too much of a chance that he is a time bomb waiting to explode."

"A teacher may have bizarre beliefs and still be a fine teacher," the district said in court papers responding to a lawsuit by Heller challenging his dismissal. "But when a teacher combines a paranoid belief system, demonstrated mental instability, strong suicidal tendencies, repeated expeditions to purchase weapons, and expressions of homicidal desires, and when he refuses to give an honest account of why he wanted to purchase weapons, there is genuine cause for alarm."

Nearly 300 pages of court documents filed last week by the district reveal details about Heller's eight-day disciplinary hearing that resulted in his firing and show that the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit was consulted in the case. Heller had recently acquired three guns and was seeking a fourth when Pound Ridge police stepped in. An independent psychiatric evaluation ordered by the school found that Heller could be suffering from schizophrenia and psychosis and that his suicidal thoughts could indicate a potential for "aggressive conduct."

The documents also detail Heller's online conversations regarding the Newtown massacre with a friend and "medium" who reported her concerns to the FBI. That prompted agents to notify Bedford police that Heller made multiple suicidal and homicidal statements online and spoke about stockpiling weapons.

Among the findings in the disciplinary hearing were that Heller made comments on the Internet between December 2012 and January 2013 that he believed the government was "run by Nazis" and caused the Newtown massacre by controlling the mind of shooter Adam Lanza.

Heller was also concerned his own mind was being controlled by sinister forces and withdrew about $50,000 in cash from his bank account in anticipation of "civil unrest." He expressed a belief that entities "came to this planet in order to try to control us" and the government or aliens caused Superstorm Sandy, the hearing found.

After testimony from the Bedford and Pound Ridge police chiefs, an independent psychiatrist, the school superintendent, Heller and one his friends, the hearing officer found that Heller failed to cooperate with the school-ordered psychiatric evaluation and wasn't fit to return to work.

Heller's lawyer, Michael Sussman, claims his client is simply exercising free speech rights and poses a "risk to nobody." Heller took a renewed interest in the gun culture in recent years, including in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and the ensuing political debate about gun control legislation.

Heller, Sussman said, bought a shotgun on Dec. 13, 2012, for skeet shooting, then bought a Russian rifle the next day, the date of the Newtown massacre. A couple of weeks later, a friend, who had been caring for a man with dementia, gave Heller the man's .22-caliber rifle.

"Heller never brought these guns to school or ever intended to do so," Sussman wrote.

The district claims Heller sought a fourth gun on Jan. 18, 2013, that could be disassembled to fit into a backpack. Sussman claimed Heller didn't buy that gun out of fear it could soon be banned.

Police had been following him that day and stopped him on his way home from the gun store. They asked to talk with him at his house, where they seized his guns.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: District: Teacher's actions were 'cause for alarm'

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