On Thursday, March 28 at approximately 11 a.m., Law Enforcement from the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Lloyd Police Department descended upon the Highland High School and took into custody a 15 year old juvenile for allegedly making a threat on twitter, referencing the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in his country in 2011.
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms [ATF], in Washington D. C., was the original agency that notified local law enforcement of the threat. The juvenile was quickly apprehended and with the parent’s cooperation, a search was made of two separate homes in the Towns of Plattekill and Esopus where the juvenile resides.
The Lloyd Police department released a statement that said, in part, “Although the juvenile suspect was located at Highland High School, no threats were made in regards to Highland High School or any other specific location. The investigation revealed that the threat posed no immediate danger and the searches conducted by Police did not produce any weapons or items of concern.” The NYS Police brought K-9 bomb sniffing dogs to do a sweep of the high school.
The juvenile was charged with an offense that if committed by an adult would be the crime of Making a Terrorist Threat, a class D felony, second to the lowest of felonies. The suspect is due to appear in the Ulster County Family Court at a later date.
Lloyd Police Lt. James Janso said after his department was notified they immediately went to the High School to locate the juvenile.
“They [ATF] saw the twitter account and the verbiage on it that he used...and once they identified him at around 11 am we went to the school where he was and took him out of school,” he said.
Lt. Janso said because the suspect is a juvenile they had to wait for his parents to arrive before questioning him. The department was able to ascertain they had the right individual and that the youth allegedly had made the inflammatory statements on twitter from his home in the Town of Esopus. The juvenile was turned over to the Ulster County Sheriff’s office.
“Our top priority was safeguarding the school; we take that type of complaint very seriously and within the hour the juvenile was secured,” Janso said.
After detaining the youth, Highland Superintendent Thomas Bongiovi released a statement on the district’s website for all of the parents. He said the Town of Lloyd Police, “responded quickly and professionally and took the student into custody for questioning. We are in contact with officers and will continue to cooperate fully as they investigate the situation.”
Bongiovi said the school was placed in a “shelter-in-place” mode concurrently with the K-9 unit sweep of the High School building. He pointed out that this step was taken, “out of an abundance of caution,” to ensure there were no weapons on campus. At about 3 pm. Bongiovi sent out a robo-call to every student’s home after the Elementary School was dismissed.
“We understand that situations such as this can cause anxiety and great concern. Anytime a message like this one is needed, our goal is not to foster fear, but to be transparent and reassure parents that we are taking the proper steps to endure safety,” Bongiovi wrote. “We respond to all reported threats and treat them as credible until there is ample evidence that they are not. Please know that we have an excellent relationship with the Town of Lloyd Police and work in partnership with them on a daily basis to continue to keep our schools safe.”
In a subsequent interview, Bongiovi pointed out that, “there was no delay when authorities found out [and] started acting on it.”
Bongiovi described the parameters of a ‘shelter-in-place.’
“All that means is the teachers keep teaching and anyone in the hallways returns to their classrooms and they stay in their rooms and don’t change classes until the shelter is done,” he said. “It all took place within one period so nothing was disrupted.” The special designation was lifted at 12:50 p.m.
Bongiovi said the students, “were fine. They were used to this drill; it was second nature.” He said it is good thing when students see the Police at their school.
“They don’t go into panic mode. They are familiar with the police and they welcome the police being here,” he said.