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By Bob Uphues
A custodian at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield was arrested Friday and charged with four felony counts of disorderly conduct after reportedly making threats against four co-workers.
Timothy Mesich, 41, a night custodian, was taken into custody at the school by two Brookfield police officers after he was summarily fired by Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski at a termination hearing on Friday afternoon.
At a bond hearing Monday morning at the Maybrook courthouse, a Cook County judge set the Countryside resident's bond at $350,000. He remains in custody at Cook County Jail. At a hearing slated for Jan. 30, prosecutors are expected to announce they'll seek to indict Mesich.
In addition, Mesich was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of firearm ammunition without a permit. Following Mesich's arrest, police searched his Countryside apartment and reported finding 138 rounds of ammunition for various caliber weapons. Police did not find any weapons, and Mesich reportedly denied owning any firearms.
School staff members were notified of the arrest Monday, and Kuzniewski sent home a letter to parents Monday afternoon.
Police said that Mesich threatened to shoot co-workers he had problems with, including the district's director of buildings and grounds, Rich Batka. Mesich on more than one occasion also reportedly threatened to sexually assault a female co-worker.
Mesich, who worked at S.E. Gross School for about 12 years, has denied making the threats according to police, and he characterized the alleged sexual assault threats as harmless banter.
Kuzniewski said the alleged threats were directed at Mesich's custodial co-workers only.
"There were no threats to students or instructional staff," said Kuzniewski, who learned of the alleged threats on Jan. 22 from one of Mesich's co-workers. Kuzniewski said he notified police immediately and began his internal investigation the next day.
Kuzniewski said he decided to terminate Mesich on Thursday, Jan. 24 and planned to do it at a meeting after Mesich arrived for work on Friday afternoon. The meeting took place after children had left the building for the day.
Two police officers waiting outside the meeting room arrested Mesich as he walked out.
"Once he was taken into custody, we escorted him to his personal area to get some personal effects, and then we took him to the station," said Brookfield Police Lt. Edward Petrak.
The threats to co-workers reportedly began around Dec. 1, according to Kuzniewski, and were sparked by an argument Mesich had with a female co-worker about his job performance.
During the next several weeks, Mesich reportedly made threats against four of his co-workers, not necessarily directly. According to Petrak, Mesich would typically make the threat while complaining to another employee.
Because he was a custodian, Mesich had keys to the building. While those have been taken from him, Kuzniewski moved to assure families that the school was taking steps to make sure the building remains secure.
"We're taking every precautionary step to make sure he doesn't have access to the buildings," said Kuzniewski, who added that he had been in touch with LaGrange Park police and staff at Brook Park School.
"Our school safety plan has measures to address not only being proactive, as in this case, but also how to prepare for situations like this after the fact," Kuzniewski said.