Friday, May 1, 2009

Police arrest teen in school shooting threat

Student charged with ‘threatening violence on school grounds’


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

The atmosphere at Wood River High School was somewhat normal again this week after a handwritten note threatening a shooting was found on April 21 at the school. Hailey police arrested a 15-year-old student on Wednesday for allegedly writing the note. Photo by David N. Seelig

Hailey police arrested a 15-year-old Wood River High School student Wednesday afternoon in connection with a handwritten note threatening a shooting last week at the school.

"He was just upset," Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said Thursday. "We don't believe he intended to carry out what he threatened.

"We will have an increased presence there, but things are pretty much back to normal at the school."

Police and the school district declined to release the boy's name because he is a minor.

The note was found the afternoon of Tuesday, April 21, in an upstairs boys bathroom at the high school. The note threatened a shooting on April 22 at the school and was found one day after the 10-year anniversary of the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Police and Blaine County School District officials took the threat seriously and implemented their security plan. The school was thoroughly searched that evening but no weapons or suspicious items were found.

On Wednesday, April 22, police were at the school in force and officers were also dispatched as a precaution to other district schools and the private Community School in Sun Valley.

Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis told parents and school staff he was taking the threat seriously, and authorized the move to increase security at the school campuses.

At the high school, students and their belongings were searched before they were allowed into the building. Police patrolled the school throughout Wednesday and the following day. Some police carried assault rifles and an officer with a sniper rifle was stationed on the roof of the building.

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Attendance at the school dropped to about 50 percent of normal on April 22. Many parents were notified of the threat through the school district text messaging system.

District administrative assistant Kate Heinecke said there were about 1,000 subscribers to the system prior to April 22.

"The actual number of unique subscribers we have right now is 1,208," she said Thursday afternoon.

Gunter said the alleged writer of the note was identified through handwriting analysis assistance that was provided by the Canyon County Sheriff's Office.

Gunter said the boy remained in custody Thursday and had been charged with a misdemeanor offense of "threatening violence on school grounds."

A news release issued Thursday morning stated: "The Hailey Police Department is confident that there is no longer a threat as it pertains to this specific note and the school. The Hailey Police Department wishes to publicly thank members of the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, Ketchum Police Department, Blaine County School District, and especially the staff and students of Wood River High School for their can-do and positive attitude during the stressful few days last week. The Hailey Police Department will continue to have a marked presence at the high school until the end of the school year."

Gunter also praised the Canyon County Sheriff's Office for its "forensic and investigative support" leading to the arrest.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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