Juvenile arrested on felony charge of communication intimidation

A social media post indicating a potential threat at a local school has been determined to be a student-led prank, according to local law enforcement.

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, School Resource Officer Chad Steen, a deputy with Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, was made aware of a concerning social media post on Instagram, according to Sheriff Randy Retter. That post was then circulated via screenshots throughout other social media platforms.

The post indicated an act of violence might take place on Friday, Oct. 8, against Dennis Middle School in Richmond.

Steen immediately began his investigation while also notifying Richmond Community Schools and law enforcement administrators.

Steen, now joined by Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bryan Ervin, served a search warrant to gain more information from Instagram.

Retter said their agency quickly determined the identity of the juvenile responsible for the threatening post. The juvenile was located and detained.

Ervin later interviewed the juvenile, and those associated with the message, along with their respective guardians, Retter said.

The juvenile admitted to creating an Instagram account and the post as a prank among friends, Retter said. Additional information discovered during the investigation validated the admission, he said.

Ultimately, the juvenile was arrested on a charge of communication intimidation, a Level 6 felony. The Wayne County Juvenile Probation Department was notified of the arrest and determined that juvenile would be released to guardians.

“The safety of our children is paramount, and our agency takes these threats seriously,” Retter said in the news release. “Communicating the threat and creating the panic is a crime, which we do not take lightly. I would like to recognize our team of SROs and investigators who quickly completed this in-depth investigation. We are thankful this investigation revealed there was no credible threat to the school or public.”

Dennis Middle School currently serves all Richmond students in grades seven and eight.  Richmond Community Schools changed the grade alignment this fall, moving all fifth- and sixth-graders to Test Intermediate School to help balance enrollment across the district.

Retter also would like to share WCSO’s appreciation to those who reached out to share a screenshot of the threat.

“Our agency continues to encourage citizens ‘if you see something, say something,’” Retter said. “We strongly feel by reporting suspicious activity, you play an important role in keeping our community, family and friends safe.”

On Wednesday, Richmond Community Schools shared information about the threatening post on Facebook, saying it was being investigated and thanking people for following “See Something, Say Something.” Additional law enforcement would be present at Dennis on Friday, RCS said.

Before a suspect had been detained, community comments on the page indicated that some families planned to keep their children home from school on Thursday and/or Friday before fall break begins Oct. 11.  At that time, some parents said they weren’t pleased that an elearning day had not been announced and that school absences would not be excused.

Some of Dennis’ oldest students might have attended the school when it was the site of a December 2018 shooting that received national attention.

A former student shot out the glass of a locked entry door and ran inside. Police officers quickly were in pursuit because they had received a tip from the boy’s mother that he could commit a violent act.

Dennis employees initiated their lockdown procedure to prevent injury to students and staff.  When surrounded by police in a stairwell, the teenager took his own life.


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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.