by Heather Tomlinson
The quick response by detectives and school officials ensured that no one was hurt Monday after a Southwestern High School student allegedly sent threatening text messages to other students over the weekend and off school grounds.
But detailed plans by the juvenile, a 15-year-old male, hint at what could have occurred had the student been able to carry out his goals. Investigators with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department provided the Commonwealth Journal with a few of the texts allegedly sent by the juvenile.
“People have been giving me s*** for years, now they’re all going to ... pay,” the accused juvenile allegedly texted to another student.
“Stop.” the other student responded. “You’re scaring me.”
“Good. Fear Me.”
Det. Bobby Jones, with the sheriff’s department, said he was approached by a youth member at his church on Sunday morning about the texts, which had begun circulating among several SWHS students soon after the juvenile sent them.
The texts, allegedly sent by the juvenile, who was arrested Monday, describe in detail a plan to carry out an assault at SWHS.
“Place (two) fire bombs in the lobby, one near the bathroom entrance and one near the cafeteria entrance, (two) where the gym doors are, one by the crowd of people ... near the vending machine, the other near the store by the other crowd of people,” the student allegedly states. “At 8:15 (a.m.) detonate the bombs which will cause chaos, aim low at the legs of running students, injuring as many as possible and disallowing then to run, after people are done running, go back through the people on the floor and shoot each of them in the head, eliminating the chance of a survivor ...”
The student then stated in the text that he intended to shoot himself and lie down with the “crowd of bodies” and pretend to be a victim in the assault.
The student also allegedly stated that he had the plans, but he didn’t have the weapons to carry out the assault.
Jones and other investigators immediately began looking into the texts, and he said they were able to quickly trace them back to the accused juvenile. By the time Monday morning rolled around, detectives and deputies had already swept SWHS for any signs of destructive devices, items the student allegedly said he would use in an attack on the school.
“They (school personnel) aided us and assisted a lot,” said Jones. “They were a really big help.”
Nothing was found, and Jones said police, working in coordination with all school staff (including custodians, office workers, administrators, and teachers) waited for the student to come to school early Monday.
“We were going to stop him before he entered the school and confiscate everything he had,” said Jones.
The student didn’t come to school that day — which Pulaski County Schools Assistant Superintendent Sonya Wilds confirmed — and Jones was able to track the student down off-campus. What entailed was an interview that lasted several hours, during which Jones said the student said he did send the texts.
But the student wouldn’t say why he wanted to carry out the violent plans.
“He never gave a motive as far as why he wanted to do it,” said Jones.
Investigators looked into any possible bullying issues and found none. Jones said the juvenile even said he wasn’t being bullied.
“Through the investigation, and even by his own admission, he was not being bullied,” said Jones.
Investigators said Monday’s incident differs greatly with that of a mid-November incident in which a 15-year-old female SWHS student was arrested after she sent threatening texts to her friends. That student allegedly sent anonymous messages to two female classmates saying she was going to kill them and described the clothes the victims were wearing in the texts. She also sent a similar text message to herself, and what investigators called a “vulgar” message to another student, a male.
“This threat is different from the earlier one in that this student has an apparent desire to inflict harm ... although he could not explain to us why he wanted to do so,” said Lt. Det. Brett Whitaker in an email to the Commonwealth Journal. “The earlier threats were made by a female student who wanted to ‘scare’ her friends in a prank threat.
“She meant no real harm in that incident,” added Whitaker.
But Whitaker said threatening messages — be they made through text or in any other form — in any context are taken seriously by law enforcement and educational staff members.
“Prank or real, we are going to take a zero tolerance approach to all threats made in a school environment,” said Whitaker.
That student was charged with second-degree terroristic threatening, a Class D felony. Jones said she has a court date in January.
The juvenile involved in Monday’s incident was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, which is a Class C felony. In this case, the student allegedly stated that he placed several bombs in strategic locations within the school. When the threatening statements include the use of weapons of mass destruction, a first-degree terroristic threatening charge applies to the act, according to state law.
The juvenile, who is lodged in the Adair County Juvenile Detention Center, was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday morning, but that has been held over for Thursday morning.
Arrested juveniles are not identified publicly and their court records remain sealed until they either turn 18 years old, or until they are indicted in circuit court.