Social media posts threaten gun violence at two Mat-Su schools

Published: May. 9, 2019 at 8:43 AM AKDT
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Administration at two separate Mat-Su schools received tips that social media posts were circulating online threatening gun violence, with one stating students should "watch their back."

"We're working with law enforcement right now to find out if this is a credible threat and trying to identify the person who posted the Snapchat, and then we can, at that point, deem what the appropriate consequences will be," Justin Ainsworth, the executive director of instruction for the Mat-Su School District, said.

The threats were sent to a Palmer High School student, and authorities dispatched extra officers there, and to Colony Middle and High Schools as a precaution.

The threat came in the form of an anonymous Snapchat message. As Alaska State Troopers were responding, another report of a shooting threat was made at Colony Middle School. AST said that this was the same threat which was received the night before at PHS.

Officials sent emails to parents to inform them of the situation. "This morning as students arrived to school, we received notification of a social media post that alerted students not to attend school today. The post indicated there would be a school shooting," Mary Fulp, principal at Colony Middle School, said in her note.

Administrators at Palmer High were informed of a similar threat, and contacted the school resource officer with that information, beginning an investigation. Officials at the Palmer Police Department confirmed officers were sent to Palmer High for additional support.

Lance Ketterling, Chief with PPD, said that the threat was in the form of an anonymous Snapchat message. "We do not have a suspect identified, but we are working on determining who that individual is," Ketterling said. "Out of caution, we have officers at Palmer High and Palmer Junior today."

Students can expect an increased law enforcement and security presence Thursday morning, but as of now, the Mat-Su Borough School District says it does not believe there is any danger to students at this time.

Around 9:30 Thursday morning an increased presence of law enforcement could be seen outside of Palmer High School and a handful of parents were picking up their children from school.

"Parents have the right, anytime, to pull their children from school," Ainsworth said, "after the message was delivered there have been a handful of parents at Palmer High School who have pulled their children for the day."

The district spokesperson says the incident is under further investigation. Classes are expected to proceed as normal.

"Law enforcement has been notified and arrived here immediately. They were already aware of the threat and we will have an increased presence of law enforcement on our MSBSD campuses today," Fulp added in the email.

"Right now we have not proved or disproved the veracity of the threat," Ketterling said. "That is what the investigation will aim to determine today."

"Troopers take these threats seriously and will be taking every investigative step possible to identify where the threat came from and who may have sent it," said AST spokesperson Megan Peters. "Should locations or people be identified criminal charges may be filed."

Editors note: This story previously indicated that a student was arrested for the threat that caused a response to the high schools, but that was not the case. There was a separate incident involving a threat to the middle school.
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