BATTLE GROUND, Wash. – A 13-year-old boy made threats against a Battle Ground middle school but did not have the means to carry out those threats, police said. Nonetheless, police and school officials decided to close a number of schools on Wednesday as a precaution.
Detectives from the Battle Ground Police Department interviewed the boy on Wednesday afternoon and determined he was responsible, according to police spokesman Sgt. Aaron Kanooth.
The boy was a student at Chief Umtuch Middle School, which was the target of the threats.
Four other public schools nearby were also closed as a precaution, including Summit View Middle, Captain Strong Primary, CAM Academy and Battle Ground High School. All Battle Ground schools will be open on Thursday, district officials said.
Kanooth said detectives got information from the FBI and Vancouver Police Department that led them to the boy.
They seized his computer to examine it further, but Kanooth said detectives realized the boy never had the ability to actually carry out his threats.
Lt. Roy Butler said the boy sent the threats to a website operated by Chief Umtuch where students can write in about their issues or concerns.
The threats were made against the school and a teacher, and specifically mentioned the day, Butler said.
After getting the threats, officers searched the school buildings and did not find anything suspicious.
It appears the student also emailed in a suicide note, although detectives said the boy is not suicidal. Butler said he doesn't know the boy's motivation but said it was not a joke.
Investigators do not think any other students were involved.
The boy was released to his parents, who cooperated with police. A county juvenile prosecutor will review the case to determine which charges he should face.
Butler said other parents in the district don't have any reason to still be scared.
"As far as we can tell this will close the matter," he said.
A police officer assigned to schools will be at Chief Umtuch on Thursday but there won't be any additional patrols.
"The main reason is to reassure the kids showing up that everything is okay," Butler said.
The school district sent out a notice about the closure early Wednesday morning, although many parents didn’t get the word and showed up at the schools with their children.
Butler said he did not believe the threat was connected to another bomb threat from February. Luke Love, 18, was sentenced last Friday to five days in jail, which he's already served, and 25 days on a work crew for writing a bomb threat on a bathroom wall at Battle Ground High School.
Letter sent to Battle Ground parents:
As you know, a series of threats against students and staff at Chief Umtuch Middle School prompted the closure of five Battle Ground schools and cancellation of Community Education classes at those schools, Wednesday, September 11. The Battle Ground Police Department acted promptly to conduct a thorough investigation in collaboration with the FBI and Vancouver Police to identify the source of written messages that threatened students and staff.
District officials became aware of the threats last night and immediately called the police. The decision to close school on Wednesday was an extremely difficult one. It was made with thorough deliberation and collaboration among school principals, district officials, and the Battle Ground Police Department. We did not want to overreact, but, at the same time, we did not want to jeopardize in any way the safety of our kids. We believe closing school was the right thing to do and would make the same decision again given the same information.
Detectives from the Battle Ground Police Department conducted an interview of a 13 year old student from Chief Umtuch. The suspect has been arrested for making the threats and his computer has been confiscated. Officers have determined that the suspect did not possess the means to carry out any of the threats that were made. There is no evidence at this time to show that other suspects were involved. The case file will be forwarded to the Clark County Juvenile Prosecutor.
We are concerned about how students are feeling about threats and understand some may experience anxiety or concern about returning to school. It is important that our students feel safe at school and we want you to know we have counselors and administrative staff available to talk with students at any time. We will make every effort to connect school counseling services to all students in need.
Thank you for your patience and understanding surrounding this difficult situation. We truly believe our schools are safe and look forward to seeing our students back in school tomorrow. We also believe Battle Ground is a place of great learning for all. May we now return to that positive learning environment.