Crime

Pierce County students ages 12, 15 and 17 charged for separate school threats

Three boys accused of separate threats of violence at their Pierce County schools last week were charged with felony harassment Monday.

A 12 year-old Truman Middle School student, 15-year-old Lincoln High School student and 17-year-old Spanaway Lake High School student pleaded not guilty at arraignment in Pierce County Juvenile Court.

Court Commissioner Mark Gelman ordered them held in juvenile detention at Remann Hall and did not allow them to be released to electronic home monitoring.

“I’ve got community safety concerns,” Gelman said during the 12-year-old’s arraignment. He made similar comments during the older boys’ hearings.

Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said there was no reason to believe the threats were related to a shot that was fired at Oakland High School Monday. No one was injured at Oakland or at the schools where the threats were made.

The News Tribune does not generally name suspects who are charged as juveniles.

Charging papers give these accounts of the threats:

The 12-year-old was suspended from Truman this month for threatening to cause harm, and about a day later he asked on the social media app Snapchat if anyone had a gun.

A safety plan was made for the boy to return to school Monday, but Friday students reported that he’d posted a photo of a semiautomatic gun on Instagram and stated that he was going to shoot up the school upon his return.

The boy told investigators that he never threatened to shoot up the school but that he’d sent a message that some people would be sorry he was coming back.

His grandmother gave police a BB gun that had been at the boy’s home and which looked like the one in the photo.

Also on Friday, the 17-year-old student said on his bus that he was going to shoot up Spanaway Lake High on Monday. Some students who heard him said they believed the boy was joking, and others said they were frightened or uncomfortable.

One told police he believed the 17-year-old has access to weapons and that the suspect has had violent confrontations and expressed violent emotions to students and staff before.

The suspect denied making threats, but investigators reviewed surveillance video “where the respondent can be heard talking about shooting up the school on Monday,” charging papers say.

On Saturday, police got a report that the 15-year-old Lincoln High student had posted a video of himself with a gun on Snapchat with text that said, “Next school shooter jk haha.” The post also contained two smiley faces. It continue, “But I’ll be carrying this around so don’t (expletive) with me or threaten me.”

In a second post he called himself “the god protector” and wrote, “I don’t care how many shots I get I’ll still use my weapon against him until he dies.” He wrote that he might go to jail but that it would be worth it.

A third post said he was on his way to practice shooting, and a fourth said, “If I am a school shooter I’ll go after the people I hate and then go rampaging.”

A concerned parent who saw the Snapchat posts shared them on Facebook to warn other families.

The 15-year-old saw and messaged the parent to say he was sorry and that he wanted to meet with a counselor. He’d been stressed because he was getting threats at school, he said.

When officers arrested the boy, they found a pocket knife on him. He said the gun in the Snapchat post was a pellet gun, and investigators confiscated it.

The Tacoma Police Department praised those who offered tips about the threats.

“Preventing school shootings requires a partnership between community members, schools and the police,” the agency said in a statement Sunday. “No concern is too small to report. The citizens who observed these threats over social media, and made the call to report them, are to be commended. No threat is too small, if you believe a threat has been made against a school or student in school, please call 911 to report it.”

The school district posted a statement Sunday night on its Facebook page.

“A big thank you to TPD and the Tacoma School District's Safety & Security Department for pursuing these threats that appeared on social media. In addition, thank you to all the good people in our community who saw and reported the threats to TPD. #SeeSomethingSaySomething

“This is an opportune time for all of us to remember a couple of important things: 1. Simply making a threat to shoot a school is a crime. 2. In the future, if you see or hear anything resembling a threat against our schools, please report it immediately to the Tacoma Police Department.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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