Three separate incidents now attributed as “pranks” culminated in two juvenile detentions and raised safety concerns from parents and teachers alike at Westview High School last week.
Threatening messages were written on the bathroom walls of the school three times, according to police reports, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of last week. The school days were ending close to the time the threats were discovered, minimizing the disruption.
After investigation, the messages were determined to be empty threats, resulting in charges of “false reports.”
The drama started when a student reported a message written on the wall in the boy’s bathroom on Monday.“The message referred to the school being blown up and gave a date,” said Jeromy Davidson, Assistant Principal, in a statement. The police report indicates that date was May 11 which would have been Wednesday.
School officials alerted Ptl. John Cross who was on patrol inside Westview at the time, according to the police report. Soon the Martin Police Department was searching the school thoroughly and “reviewing surveillance frames” according to Davidson, and the incident was brought to a close early Tuesday afternoon. Video cameras are positioned in the hallways of the school, say police officials.
According to police reports, a juvenile “freely admitted” early Monday afternoon to writing the threat and was placed on juvenile arrest and petition for “false reports.” According to Cpt. Tommy Erwin, the case was then heard in Juvenile Court on Tuesday.
But there were more threats to come. On Tuesday, a student reported to a teacher another threatening message in the bathroom according to police reports; the threat still referred to an imminent bomb threat. This time, because it was the second incident and officers were “erring on the side of caution,” says Erwin, the Martin Fire Department was called in to help search the building. “room by room.” Erwin says that the police stayed at the school until 10:30 p.m. investigating the matter.
Erwin says that the MPD did not use a bomb dog as they usually do, because their previous dog had been “retired” and an officer was on leave training to be the handler of a new dog.
Wednesday night, a message went out on the school’s mass communication system, letting parents and students know by phone that the school building had been checked and was fine and that classes would be held as usual Thursday morning. But on Thursday, yet another threat appeared on the walls, in lead pencil, again referring to a specific date, this time on May 13, according to police reports. By this time, Erwin says that police had gained “additional evidence” and matched the last two bomb threats, leading to the identification of another juvenile suspect.
“It’s my understanding the student questioned thought it would be a good joke,” said Davidson in a statement. “There is no evidence that it was anything other than a prank,” confirmed Erwin. “There was no bomb.”
School officials hope that the two arrests spell the end to the series of bomb threats. “Hopefully so,” says Randy Frazier, Director of Weakley County Schools. “But we have to be on our toes for safety.”
School officials praised the role students and teachers played in getting to the bottom of the threats. Frazier also said he was “pleased” with how the Martin Police Department, Fire Department and Weakley County Juvenile Office had handled the case so far.