School resource officer: Teen with knives, fireworks, hit list was 'very calm' when searched

School resource officer: Teen with knives, fireworks, hit list was 'very calm' when searched
(Source: Union County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Union County Sheriff's Office)

UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A teenager who was reportedly found with multiple weapons, including knives and fireworks, along with a hit list inside a school in Union County was "very calm" when searched, according to the school's resource officer.

According to the Union County Sheriff, the school's Resource Officer Deputy A.J. Wallace at Forest Hills High School discovered several knives, a bottle of flammable liquid, fireworks, a dismantled shotgun shell and a "hit list" inside the book bag of a student Tuesday.  Wallace got the student out of class to search his bag.

"The student hadn't had any issues or discipline issues," Wallace said. "And so when we spoke to him he was very calm."

Sheriff Eddie Cathey says the suspect, who is under 16 years old, is at a facility getting counseling and help. No motive has been determined, but law enforcement says bullying could have played a role.

"We would assume that there was some trouble that happened if some names were mentioned," Wallace said.

The NC State Bureau of Investigation's ISAAC (Information Sharing and Analysis Center) Unit received information from a Canadian law enforcement agency concerning chat room discussions involving threats of violence by a Forest Hills High School student. The threats indicated the student intended to stab several kids at school Tuesday.

According to the sheriff's office, the "hit list" contained names of multiple individuals and the school district is working to notify people who were named on the list.  They have all been notified and detectives are now talking to them to find out more information about the student.

"What friends he had, what they knew," the sheriff said. "What the students that were named - what they knew and what interaction they had had with him to cause him to get this line of thinking."

Officials say the teenager's identity is being withheld. Criminal charges are forthcoming. They could include possession of a weapon to threat of mass violence.

Extra police were present at the school Wednesday and will stay there as long as needed.  Students still shocked this happened at their school.

"Whenever I first heard about the threat, I thought it was another hoax - you know just get us out of school," said student Malik Huntley.

That was not the case Tuesday. Deputies had gained intelligence leading them to believe there was a serious threat to students at the school, according to Tony Underwood, Chief Communications Officer with the Union County Sheriff's Office.

"Fortunately, we believe we've averted a potential catastrophe today," said Underwood.

Underwood said there were around a dozen names on the hit list.

"The deputies and specifically the School Resource Officer, along with Union County Public Schools did an outstanding job of quickly identifying the student involved with the chat room discussions and finding the weapons before a tragedy happened," Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. "I also need to thank the SBI and ISAAC for bringing this matter to our attention as quickly as they did."

Sheriff Cathey also reminds parents to speak with their kids and encourage them to talk to school officials or an SRO if they are having problems at school or feel threatened by other students. He encourages anyone with information about threats of school violence to notify authorities.

Cathey says they will look at this episode to review what more can be done to keep students safe.

"Are there things we need to do better," the sheriff said. "I am sure there is. I am sure that we will step back and look at this and see what we have missed in this child's life, maybe what his parents have missed in this child's life."

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