Sheriff’s officials investigate multiple school threats

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published February 27, 2018

 L'Anse Creuse High School-North

L'Anse Creuse High School-North

File photo by Erin Sanchez

HARRISON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Investigators with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office deemed that recent threats of violence at L’Anse Creuse Public Schools were not credible. However, those involved are facing possible punishments.

According to Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, during the afternoon of Feb. 21, deputies were dispatched to L’Anse Creuse High School-North in Macomb Township on a report of a school threat made through social media.

A school official reported to law enforcement that he was notified by a student about a social media message involving a threat to the school. The message originated from someone who previously attended L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township.

The school official stated that the suspect in question is currently on long-term suspension for a similar threat he made via Snapchat in January. Detectives spoke with the person who received the original message, and she explained that she and the suspect were discussing his future school enrollment when he stated that he would bomb L’Anse Creuse High School-North if he had to return there.

While continuing to investigate the threat, another incident was reported at 9:25 a.m. Feb. 22 at L’Anse Creuse High School. A school official reported that a student had reported inappropriate conversations taking place via social media. The student reported that the same suspect had started a conversation involving several other students and was laughing and talking about school shootings.

Deputies were sent to the suspect student’s home in Harrison Township, where he was taken into custody and lodged at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center. The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a petition for the suspect for false threat to bomb, a four-year felony.

The suspect went in front of a juvenile court referee on Feb. 23 and was denied bond. Sheriff’s officials confirmed that the suspect would remain at the Juvenile Justice Center until his court date on March 5 for a preliminary exam for both the false threat to bomb charge and the original charge of false threat of terrorism that occurred in January.

“Our office takes these statements very seriously and will continue to thoroughly investigate and hold those committing criminal acts responsible,” Wickersham said. “Our students, their families and school staff need to feel safe in the educational environment. These types of statements, whether made in jest or some other form, will not be tolerated.”

The threat came just days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

L’Anse Creuse Superintendent Erik Edoff sent a message to the school community on Feb. 26 in an effort to quell rumors that had circulated over social media about the threats, including an incident that occurred at L’Anse Creuse Middle School-South around the same time.

“The tragic events in Florida nearly two weeks ago bring issues of security and safety to every community, including ours,” Edoff said. “Reactions to this incident have ranged from anger to fear. We all want assurances of safety for our children. Please know that L’Anse Creuse Public Schools works in full partnership with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department and reports all incidents of threats and safety concerns to them.

“As you have heard, we had a rumor circulating last evening (Feb. 25) regarding a reference to an alleged threat against L’Anse Creuse High School,” Edoff continued. “The response of the Sheriff’s Department was swift and thorough and went over and above all expectations. They questioned numerous students and parents in order to identify the original post and credibility of the threat. By early this morning, it was clear that there was no threat and no original post existed.

“Some students, when questioned, referred to two unrelated incidents from last week,” he said. “Both incidents were investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and deemed not credible. In one incident, a student that is not in attendance made a threat to a school that was determined to be not credible. He was charged by the Sheriff’s Department for his false accusations. The other student was at Middle School-South and made a verbal threat in class. This was also determined to not be credible. Students found to be making false threats and accusations face disciplinary action at school, as well as potential felony charges of domestic terrorism.”

Edoff went on to address how the community can help keep the schools safe.

“We need our community to report threats and safety concerns to school and law enforcement officials, and (we) encourage that communication,” he said in the statement. “The manner by which concerns are reported is crucial to assisting law enforcement in determining the validity and credibility of the threat. The sharing of unsubstantiated information between students and others without credibility or evidence impedes the investigative process. Last night’s investigation was hampered by the fact that rumors were shared vigorously on social media, but reports directly to the school or law enforcement came secondhand.

“We need to be strong partners in dealing with threats and safety. Please take time to speak with your students about their heightened fears following the incident in Florida and their important role in appropriately reporting information to adults rather than spreading unconfirmed rumors. We want students to speak up when they have information, but do so in a productive manner that assists the school and law enforcement in their investigation.”

Edoff said the district is reviewing its current safety procedures and will be considering additional procedures and protocols.

“Our best answers to these challenging problems will come from all of us working together,” he said.

The district’s community and public relations director, Kelly Allen, confirmed early in the morning on Feb. 26 that all L’Anse Creuse schools would be open for the day and that sheriff’s deputies would be on-site at L’Anse Creuse High School.