Facebook threat results in school ‘lockout’
No charges being pursued against 19-year-old suspect
Originally published 2013-01-31
Following what was deemed a threatening post on the popular social media website Facebook, local schools experienced a rare “lockout” situation this week.
The Gunnison Police Department was made aware of the post Monday and notified officials with the Gunnison Watershed RE1J School District, said Chief Keith Robinson.
Local schools implemented a heightened level of security at 11 a.m., during which students weren’t allowed to leave the building and visitors were only allowed entrance “if we knew them,” said Superintendent Jon Nelson.
In the meantime, Gunnison County Sheriff’s officers contacted the 19-year-old individual alleged to be behind the threats at his home east of Gunnison, said Undersheriff Randy Barnes. School officials were notified of the contact, and a more typical level of security resumed by about 11:45 a.m.
“When we first talked to him, he denied it,” Barnes said of the threats. “We took him into custody and brought him to the jail for investigation.”
A mental-health evaluation was conducted at the jail by a representative from the Center for Mental Health, said Barnes, after which the suspect was released to the custody of family.
“Of course, we were going on the assumption that a threat was made, so we were using precautions,” he explained. “We questioned him and did the psychological evaluation.”
That evaluation and questioning by law enforcement indicated that “he wasn’t planning to follow through with what he posted,” said Robinson.
Robinson indicated that the Facebook post alluded to something along the lines of “Gunnison would be made famous,” in addition to a reference to recent shootings elsewhere around the country. “He had several comments about, ‘I’m not threatening anybody directly but there’s going to be a shooting.’ There is a shooting listed in the Facebook (post).”
Robinson indicated Tuesday that charges are not being pursued against the young man.
“The threat was general enough that it’s not directed at an individual,” he explained. “It doesn’t become harassment or intimidation when you don’t have a specific person (to whom the threat is directed).”
Robinson declined to name the individual, “because it involved mental health,” he said.
In Superintendent Nelson’s 22-year tenure with RE1J, Monday’s lockout was the first. But local schools have ramped up preparation for such an event substantially in recent years.
“Within the last three years we’ve implemented new emergency management plans,” he explained. “We could utilize a lockout for such things as a skunk on a playground. It’s utilized so that you keep the kids in the building and they’re not subject to something that they don’t need to be subject to.”
What, exactly, the lockout meant locally depended on the school site.
At Gunnison Community School (GCS) and Lake School, during a typical day all the doors are locked during school hours except for the buildings’ main entrances. Visitors can enter the school freely, but are required to check in at the front office.
During a lockout scenario at those schools, all doors are locked and visitors are only allowed access if they can be identified and have a reason for being at the school, Nelson explained.
At Gunnison High School and Crested Butte Community School, during most of the day even the building’s main entrance is locked, and visitors are admitted access mechanically by someone at the front desk.
During a lockout scenario, students are not allowed to leave the building, said Nelson.
He added that the message conveyed by law enforcement did not indicate that the threat had targeted local schools specifically.
“We were told that it was a general threat against the Gunnison community as a whole,” Nelson said. “We’ve got pretty precious commodities here at the school. We want to take good care of them.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com)