Two students make threats at separate schools, both arrested

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two local school districts recently worked instances where threats were made by students.

One of the threats was made by a Pearl River County School District student about two weeks ago, and the second was made by a Poplarville School District student on Monday.

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Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Marc Ogden said he was alerted to the threat made by the Pearl River County School District student on Friday, and was asked to take over the case by the District’s police department and administration.

Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said the District became aware of the threat after a student reported it to the administration on Feb. 16, which prompted them to immediately interview the student, who denied the allegations but was no longer allowed on campus from that date. An outside assessment conducted from that day until Feb. 22, eventually deemed the threat viable and was turned over to the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department, Lumpkin said. He said this incident was separate from the incident reported last week concerning a middle school student singing lyrics of a song that were mistaken as a threat.

In the course of his investigation, Ogden learned that the 17-year-old male made several verbal threats over the course of several days about two weeks ago to fellow students. While one of the threats was made prior to the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. two other threats by the suspect occurred after the Florida incident, one claiming to shoot more victims, Ogden said.

The chief investigator said the threats involved wording such as, “I’m gonna one-up the Florida shooter,” and “watch out, y’all may be next.”

The suspect, who has not been named due to his juvenile status, was arrested just before 11 a.m. Tuesday on the offense of intimidation, threatening or coercion of students for the purpose of interfering with attendance of class. According to Mississippi code 37-11-20, the offense is a misdemeanor if convicted and carries a fine up to $500 and up to six months of jail time.

Ogden said the investigation was worked in cooperation with the school district’s administration and law enforcement agency.

A second threat at a local school district was reported to the Poplarville Police Department Monday, said Chief Butch Raby. He said he received the tip from the school District’s school resource officer, who said that a 15-year-old male student was making threats and attempting to recruit other students to his plan. Monday evening, the suspect was arrested by the Poplarville Police Department for the offense of intimidation or threatening conduct, Raby said. The suspect has since been turned over to the Pearl River County Youth Court, who has placed him into a youth detention center.

Raby declined to comment further on the incident, such as the types of violence involved in the threats, citing an ongoing investigation.

A bill currently being considered by the Mississippi Legislature would make such threats a felony, and increase the potential penalty to up to 10 years in jail. The bill, HB 1264, is being considered by the Senate.