A 15-year-old girl in Fresno, California has been arrested for allegedly making a terror threat against her high school. Police tracked down a photo she posted to Snapchat with an accompanying message that read “Don’t come to school tomorrow!!!”
The photo featured several rifles shelved on a Walmart display case, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told a press conference late Thursday, Aug. 15.
The message of the post was accompanied by several sad and angry emojis, he said.
He added that the girl—who was not publicly identified—is a “highly intelligent student, a student that is doing very well in school, someone that has a bright future.”
“Unfortunately she has potentially ruined her future as a result of this incident in making this threat,” he said.
#BREAKING: Chief Dyer says @fresnounified student made threat on @Snapchat to shoot up Edison High today. Here’s picture of weapon posted on social media. Officers pulled 15 yo female out of class and she admitted to officers that she made threatening post. She has been arrested. pic.twitter.com/FdA0OZtl6E
— Cory James (@CoryABC30) August 15, 2019
The girl attends two schools: the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) in Clovis, in the morning, and Edison High School in southwest Fresno, in the afternoon.
The FBI notified local police early Thursday, and they were able to track down the location from which the Snapchat post was sent around 6:30 a.m. It was sent from the 700 block of East Samson Avenue.
Officers determined that she made the threat toward Edison High School. However, they deployed officers at Edison, Computech, and Gaston Middle Schools as they were not sure that Edison High School was the target.
When they reached the location from where the threat was sent, they met the girl’s aunt. She informed them that the girl had already left for school. The girl was later pulled out of class from CART and interviewed by police, Dyer told the press conference. She admitted to the post, Dyer said.
According to yourcentralvalley.com, the girl told police that Snapchat requires a certain amount of posts to continue using the app, which is why she decided to make that post.
“She was not able to convince the officers as to why that post was made,” Dyer said.
The girl was later arrested and criminally charged with making a terror threat, according to local station KFSN.
“[She] will be facing a substantial amount of time in custody,” Dyer said. “We take these matters very seriously in our community, as do law enforcement agencies and school officials across this country, as a result of some of the incidents that we have seen, mass shootings.”
Dyer noted that the incident followed three recent shootings across the United States—in Gilroy, California, in Dayton, Ohio, and in El Paso, Texas.
In Gilroy, at least three people were killed and over a dozen more injured on July 28 after a shooting at a popular food festival. In El Paso, 20 people were killed and 26 wounded on Aug. 3 in a shopping center attack. Another two victims died of their wounds on Aug. 5, raising the death toll to 22. In Dayton, nine people were killed—including the shooter’s own sister—and 27 more were wounded on Aug. 4. The shooter was shot dead by police.
“When threats of this nature are made, we take them very very seriously,” he said. “We work closely with the FBI, with social media sites, tracking down who’s responsible for those posts, and then ultimately making an arrest and ensuring that the actual location where the threat is made of is secure and safe.”
He explains one reason why law enforcement takes such threats seriously is that “we never know when the threat will be carried out.”
“We only know what the threat is, we don’t know whether the person is capable of carrying out that threat, or whether they truly have the intent,” he said.
Dyer added that a second reason terror threats are taken seriously is because of potential copycats.
“This type of criminal behavior can become contagious,” he said. “We’ve seen that in the past in our community as well as communities across this nation.”
Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson at the press conference issued a caution to students.
“Students, I need you to understand, unequivocally and very seriously, that all of these terrorist threats are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “Anything that you do on social media is immediately trackable to you, and you can’t be naive about it.”
He beckoned parents to “do right by your child.”
“If you know something is going down, report it,” he said. “We cannot play around with student safety in any measure. It’s the one thing that we have to keep sacrosanct in our community.”
Social media has increasingly become a platform where students express suicide warnings and shooting threats, according to The74million.org.
74million talks about tools like Safe2Tell that allow parents and students to report information about potential violent threats anonymously.
“After the Parkland shooting, lawmakers in Florida took it a step further and mandated a new database that combines law enforcement, and social services records with social media activity to help officials investigate students who post suspicious or threatening information online,” the organization said.
The organization also mentions another helpful tool called “Social Sentinel.” The tool “collects social media data and uses artificial intelligence to run posts against a ‘library of harm.’ The library contains some 450,000 phrases, keywords, hashtags—even emojis—that he said could indicate a suspicious post. School districts are then notified, via email or text message.”