Burke County teen nabbed in latest local school threat
WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A Burke County 16-year-old was taken into custody Monday in connection with a threat at a Richmond County school, one of the latest in a rash of local school threats making the rounds on the Yik Yak social app.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Richmond County School Safety and Security regarding a threat directed towards Cross Creek High School.
The threat read, “I’m shootin’ up Cross Creek High School Monday. Be ready.”
The person used Yik Yak to communicate the threat.
Richmond County school investigators were able to develop sufficient leads based on telecommunications data. That data led them to Burke County.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office took a 16-year-old juvenile from the Burke County High School to the Criminal Investigations Division for questioning. Once the parents were present, the juvenile was interviewed and he subsequently gave an admission to sending the threat, Sheriff Alfonzo Williams said.
The juvenile will be released to the custody of the Richmond County School System and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and later detained at the Regional Youth Detention Center, Williams said.
Similar cases at Burke County High School are still open and unsolved.
“We are continuing to work with our local, state and federal partners to identify the person(s) responsible for the Yik Yak and email threats. Several businesses and community members have added to the reward offered by the sheriff’s office,” Williams said.
As a result, the reward now stands at $4,000 for information leading to an arrest.
“BCSO is working with BPS to ensure a safe learning environment for our students, staff, faculty and community. We ask that all personnel remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity or pertinent information to school personnel or law enforcement,” Williams said.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office says there’s no evidence the threats made against Burke County High School last week are credible.
The agency says: “We continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to keep our community safe. These type threats have increased across the state over the past several months. We are looking for any similarities or a particular method of operation.”
Authorities say they’ve heightened security and increased the law enforcement presence at every school in the district and are taking other steps to keep the community safe.
Law enforcement is still working to track down who sent the threats.
“We are trying to run down the IP address to find out the origin of the email, and hopefully that will help us find the person or persons responsible,” said Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams.
Other agencies including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Emergency Management Agency and even the FBI are working alongside the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have called in our state and federal partners to help us identify leads and to rundown those leads,” said Williams.
They are not taking the threat lightly. The sheriff says there will be consequences once they find who is responsible.
“This is not a joke; it’s not a game. When we find the culprit, we are going to charge him or her or them and we’re going to bring down the full force of the law upon them,” he said.
While they continue to investigate, he says the community can play a role by trusting the department and being cautious on social media.
“We really need the public’s help, to not overreact, to not panic, to not spread rumors on Facebook but to allow the professionals to use the resources that we have to ensure the safety of our students,” said Williams.
There’s not a definite timeline of when the case will be solved, but everyone’s safety is authorities’ first priority.
“We are going to continue to ensure the safety of our students, staff, faculty, and community as long as necessary,” Williams said.
Williams’ agency is offering a $2,500 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest in this case. We reached out to the GBI for information on this case and to find out just how often threats are made in schools here in the river region. We’re still waiting to hear back.
What you can do
Williams issued a statement calling on parents and the community to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious.
“Furthermore, we are asking you to help law enforcement by talking to your children about goings-on around the country and our state related to school safety, threats and appropriate responses,” he told parents. “Please review safety protocols with them and explain the necessity of reporting suspicious behavior and reporting to a responsible adult any threats to the learning environment.”
He said it’s important for parents to talk with their children about the proper use of social media and technology inside and outside of school.
“Parents can further help law enforcement by checking book bags and backpacks, maintaining an open dialogue with children, school personnel and law enforcement,” he said.
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