Word of shooting threat rattles parents

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A rumor spread across social media networks Sunday and Monday about a shooting that was to occur at one of the Poplarville schools.

Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt said “at no time was there a threat.”

Poplarville Police Chief Charles Fazende said on Sunday someone overheard a man in the county talking about a supposed school shooting. The Poplarville Police Department and Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department were notified and investigated the claim.

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“It was determined to not be a credible threat,” Fazende said.

Merritt and Fazende emphasized that if there is a credible threat to the schools, the parents and staff will be notified by the schools or police.

On Monday, the Poplarville Police Department posted on their Facebook page, “Rest assured that if your children are ever knowingly in danger, you parents will be the first to know. A false rumor spread through social media like wildfire and was embellished more and more with every post. Please feel free to contact the police department to find facts rather than depending on social media.”

Fazende said the safety of the children in the district is the department’s number one priority.

Merritt said on Monday morning “we were in close contact with local law enforcement. We were told it was investigated and determined not to be a threat.”

He said the school district has plans that can be implemented for situations like those rumored to happen.

Fazende emphasized to not depend on social media as a news source and if a parent, staff or student is concerned, to contact the school district or local law enforcement agencies.

Merritt said if the rumor had been credible, that information would’ve come to the parents, staff and students through “proper channels.”

However, Sheriff David Allison said on Tuesday that there was more than just a rumor.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office received a phone call in which a complainant reported overhearing “a 27-year-old Poplarville man make a comment that he was planning a school shooting,” Allison said.

Due to HIPPA regulations, the subject’s name can not be released.

Sunday night, Sheriff’s deputies responded to the complaint and were given consent to search the subject’s residence following an interview, said Allison.

“We could not collect enough evidence that he was planning a shooting,” Allison said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshal Service were all contacted regarding the possible threat, to see if they had any information, said Allison. “We take this kind of situation seriously and pull all of our resources together,” he said.

On Monday morning, as a precaution, all schools in Pearl River County were notified of the situation and two reacted by initiating “an alert system,” said Allison.

The subject was asked to appear at the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning for a more in-depth interview and Allison said he “easily complied.”

Again, there was not enough evidence to place the subject under arrest. “The subject said he meant it in a joking manner,” Allison said. The subject was at his residence when the comment was made.