SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA.com/AP) — A 15-year-old boy arrested Sunday on suspicion of posting online threats to shoot students at schools in the Santa Clarita Valley apparently did so as a prank, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
The teen, who was arrested after investigators served a search warrant at his home, wrote the posts on social media site Instagram to get a reaction from his friends, officials said.
The suspect “actually had no intention of carrying out these threats,” Deputy Joshua Dubin said at a news conference. “We still take it very seriously.”
Authorities were notified about the posts around 10 p.m. Saturday.
“Many of the posts that were made contained hateful-type messages — racist, sexist threats to students — and that’s what immediately got deputies involved,” Dubin said.
About 12 hours later, deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley station reported that one person had been arrested but that their investigation was ongoing.
Due to the suspect’s age, deputies did not disclose his name but said he was a high school student in the William S. Hart Union School District, one of several districts in Santa Clarita. The suspect’s Instagram account has since been deactivated.
“We’re confident that we do have the individual that is responsible for this,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Vander Leek told KNX1070. “I guess what’s a relief is that there were no weapons found at the location.”
Deputies also said in a written statement they believe the suspect acted alone.
“Based on statements made by the suspect, it appears he made these posts to get a reaction from friends on social media, realizing too late that the threats were being taken seriously,” the statement indicated.
The post, which has since been removed from the social media site, allegedly included threats against women and minorities. He also posted stock photos of guns, dead bodies, and a school marque for “Valencia High School” — which turned out to be a school in Texas with the same name.
One post reads: “To the people who live in the SCV area, there will be a huge [expletive] shooting soon and alot [sic] of you [expletive] are going to die. We are aiming our guns mostly at high school students…blood will be shed and families will suffer.”
CBS2 first learned of the post from a concerned parent who contacted the newsroom. Deputies said they were flooded with calls from at least 25 residents alerting them of the post overnight.
Authorities worked with Instagram employees to track down the suspect.
Meanwhile, parents and teachers in the school district were notified.
“I was devastated. It was unbelievable. I think the threats that were made are very concerning,” parent Karin Tucker said.
“I did see the picture and it looked like something that was an older picture, so I was hoping that meant something positive as far as it being a hoax,” Antonio Curiel said.
Officials said they plan on increasing security patrols at schools in the district on Monday.
In a written statement, District Superintendent Rob Challinor, said:
“This morning, we became aware of a threat that was posted on social media made against our high schools. We take threats of this nature very seriously and we are working closely with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Extra precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff on all of our campuses, while this is being investigated. We are looking forward to a day of student learning tomorrow, as we begin the first full week of the new school year.”
Anyone with any information as to who posted these threats was asked to call the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at (661) 255-1121. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.