Two teens arrested following online threats against UCS schools

Schools stay open, police presence promised

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 28, 2019 | Updated May 30, 2019 2:37pm

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Staff and students at multiple Utica Community Schools facilities were on alert upon returning to class following Memorial Day after police informed them that some sort of unsubstantiated threats were leveled against them on social media.

According to UCS spokesman Tim McAvoy, Davis Junior High School Principal Brian Shepard sent an announcement to parents informing them that the school would stay open May 28.

Shepard said police told the school staff May 27 that a social media post “of a threatening nature” mentioned Davis. Shepard said police also mentioned that they were looking into a similar message about a school not affiliated with UCS. Police later identified that school as Grissom Middle School.

“Any and all threats to schools are taken seriously. As a precaution, a police presence will be at our school today,” Shepard’s announcement said. “Davis is and will continue to be a safe learning environment for students.”

Shepard added that parents should talk to their kids about the importance of using technology wisely and the serious consequences that come with making threats, including legal trouble.

McAvoy said related letters about social media threats reportedly went out to parents at Stevenson High School, Jeannette Junior High School, Schuchard Elementary School and Schwarzkoff Elementary School.

McAvoy did not elaborate on the police investigation, adding that he wasn’t privy to it.

“The police have indicated to us (that) they are noncredible threats,” he said.

A May 28 Sterling Heights Police Department Facebook post said any rumors about schools being on lockdown were false and “there is no active threat at our schools.”

“We are investigating threats that came in, and at this point we have not been able to substantiate any of these threats,” the Facebook post states. “We investigate all of these cases to the fullest extent to assure our schools and community remain safe.”

In a May 29 press release, Sterling Heights police announced that they apprehended a 13-year-old Hamtramck resident as a suspect in regard to the threats — still deemed not valid — that appeared on Instagram.

In addition, police said they have heard of a copycat threat directed at Davis that also appeared on Instagram the night of May 28, and police are continuing to look into that, though they said it too seems to be “unsubstantiated.”

“The Sterling Heights Police Department takes these threats very seriously,” the statement reads. “Anyone making these threats is committing an act of terrorism, which is a felony punishable up to 20 years in prison.”   

Sterling Heights Police Lt. Mario Bastianelli said that because the arrested suspect is a juvenile, due process through the courts is handled differently compared to arraigning an adult. Police did not reveal the suspect’s name at press time.

“He is not a student of Utica Community Schools or Warren Consolidated (Schools),” Bastianelli said.

Later on May 29, police announced that they had  apprehended a second suspect, a 14-year-old Sterling Heights girl and Davis Junior High student. Police added that no threat from this suspect was ever valid.

“The Police Department Investigations Bureau continues to investigate this case diligently to bring any and all suspects involved in these incidents to justice,” the police announcement said. “Within 48 hours of the initial complaint of the school threats, we are proud to have arrested two suspects that were directly responsible for these crimes.”  

Anyone who has more information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Sterling Heights Police Department at (586) 446-2825.

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