Copycat threats force schools into lockdown mode

15-year-old arrested in Scioto County, charged with inducing panic – 

By Patricia Beech – 

In the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead and scores of others wounded, several copycat threats against schools began popping up almost immediately on social media sites all across the country.
Though most appeared to be hoaxes, local school administrators and law-enforcement say they’re taking all threats seriously, and are looking out for students who might be motivated to threaten or engage in similar behavior.
“Our kids need to know that threatening comments made on social media (or anywhere else) have consequences,” OVSD Superintendent Richard Seas told The Defender on Thursday. “We’re working with local law enforcement and the Adams County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure all threats will be investigated and prosecuted accordingly.”
Two Adams County schools were placed on lockdown this week after one received an anonymous threat and the other was given information that a weapon was being kept in the building.
According to Sheriff Kimmy Rogers, a threat was phoned into West Union High School Tuesday after classes were dismissed for the day. The school was put into lockdown to protect the staff and students who were participating in after-school activities.
Authorities quickly traced the call to an elementary student, and law-enforcement paid a visit to the student’s home.
North Adams schools followed suit on Wednesday after a student reported overhearing a conversation claiming that someone was keeping a weapon in the building.
“We checked out the threat, and there wasn’t anything to it,” Sheriff Rogers said, adding “We don’t want to discourage people from reporting these incidents – this student was right to report what he heard.”
North Adams high school principal Linda Naylor said she met Wednesday with students from every grade level.
“I told them they’re an important part of school safety, and that they should always let us know if they see or hear anything suspicious.”
Threats were also made on social media that originated in Scioto and Pike County, with one in particular being widely shared by local students on Snapchat.
“None of these threats were addressed to Adams County Schools, but a lot of kids down here were seeing them, and sharing them because they were scared and very worried.”
Rogers said security was amped up at the local schools after several students forwarded screen shots of the threats to his office.
“They were fearful the posts concerned Adams County schools,” he said. “With all that on social media, we thought it would be best to have extra protection in all the county schools until they figure out whose sending these posts out, and to make the kids feel safer.”
Rogers said his office feels an obligation to respond to students who share these messages.
“If we don’t respond to them we could lose the confidence of those kids,” he said. “We want them to notify us, and we will check it out – even if we don’t think there’s anything to it – we’ll still check it out.”
In a press release, Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini stated that his office and The Portsmouth Police Department “received numerous calls on Wednesday, Feb. 21 from parents concerned about sending their children to school after reading a social media post from a Snapchat account in the name of Brie Savage”.
The post stated that New Boston, Portsmouth, Clay, West, and Waverly Schools better watch out because someone was coming to shoot people at the school.
Police Captain John W. Murphy said that Scioto County Sheriff’s detectives, along with the Portsmouth Police Department, the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Boston Police Department began investigating the threats at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader requested assistance from the BCI Cyber Crimes Unit and Criminal Intelligence Unit to help track where the threats were emanating from electronically.
BCI personnel were able to trace the Snapchat account to an address on State Rte. 23 in Portsmouth.
Scioto County Sheriff’s detectives along with the Portsmouth Police Department responded to the location at 1:40 a.m. and detained two juveniles, ages 15 and 16, for questioning.
The16 year old male juvenile was arrested and charged for running away from a foster home, but authorities said he was not involved in the social media threats.
After a further investigation that resulted in the search of the 15-year-old female’s cell phone, she was arrested and charged with five counts of inducing panic – a felony of the fifth degree with one count for each school listed, and one count of making a terrorist-like threat – a felony of the third degree.
Both teens were taken to the Ross County Juvenile Detention Center and were scheduled to appear in juvenile court on Thursday, Feb. 22.
According to Sheriff Donini, the quick arrest was the result of a joint effort of law-enforcement along with the community and school officials who reported these threats. He said the investigation is ongoing and could result in additional charges at a later date. He also expressed gratitude to the BCI.
“They helped lead us to the location where the threats were coming from and we were able to make arrests early this morning before anything terrible happened.”
Sheriff Charles Reader agreed.
“The quick work of BCI agents and all our law enforcement partners helped avoid a potential tragedy.”