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Social Media Threats NEVER a Joke
Spokane Valley Deputies arrested a middle school student after receiving information about a Snapchat message he sent, along with a picture of a firearm, where he threatened a school shooting the next day. The 11-year-old male was cooperative and stated the post was meant as a ‘joke’. The pictured firearm was later determined to be a BB gun rifle.
On April 11, 2018, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Spokane Valley Deputy Veronica Van Patten began to investigate a threat of school shooting made on social media.
Deputy Van Patten learned the original Snapchat threat was sent by the suspect to another middle school student. The concerned student replayed the message for the alarmed youth group leader who reported it to the youth group’s adult leader.
Due to the Snapchat platform settings, the message automatically deleted within seconds after it was viewed but there was an option to ‘replay’ the message one time. The witnesses explained the message stated, “There’s going to be a school shooting tomorrow. Tell your Mama. Psych.” and was sent with a picture of a rifle-style firearm.
Deputy Van Patten contacted the suspect who was accompanied by his legal guardian. The suspect stated he knew why Deputy Van Patten was there and was cooperative during the interview. He explained he sent a Snapchat to five friends stating “There is going to be a school shooting tomorrow. Psych.”, along with a picture of his neighbor’s BB gun rifle. He said he meant it as a ‘joke’ but two of his friends replied to the message saying it was messed up and the cops are coming. He said he apologized to both friends and realized afterward he had made a bad decision.
The juvenile was arrested and transported to the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Facility where he was charged with Threats to Bomb or Injure Property, a felony.
Sheriff Knezovich stated, “Spokane County will have a zero-tolerance policy for making threats toward shooting up a school or classmates and if you make such threats, we will arrest you.”
Central Valley School District Officials and the Spokane Valley Resource Deputy were advised of this information and investigation.
We ask parents of school aged students to talk with their children about social media and know what applications they are using. Some of these apps, such as Snapchat, make it nearly impossible to monitor activities as they delete posts/messages automatically. Other apps are designed to look harmless but enable pictures/screenshots to be hidden or locked from view without secretly entering a password.
It is up to each parent how they raise their children, which includes the use of social media. Please be aware of these apps and technologies specifically designed to be secret. The entire world can be accessed from a smartphone, tablet or computer, all of which have photo and video capabilities.
Washington RCW 9.61.160: Threats to bomb or injure property—Penalty.
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to threaten to bomb or otherwise injure any public or private school building, any place of worship or public assembly, any governmental property, or any other building, common carrier, or structure, or any place used for human occupancy; or to communicate or repeat any information concerning such a threatened bombing or injury, knowing such information to be false and with intent to alarm the person or persons to whom the information is communicated or repeated.
(2) It shall not be a defense to any prosecution under this section that the threatened bombing or injury was a hoax.
(3) A violation of this section is a class B felony punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.