CMS, CMPD investigating social media threats against Charlotte schools


CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Police are investigating several threats made on social media against schools in Charlotte over the past few weeks.

A 14-year-old girl was arrested Thursday morning in connection with threats made to the Southwest Middle School community on social media, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said in a letter to parents Wednesday. The girl is a student at Southwest Middle School, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said during a press conference Thursday.

"Any jokes, any games, anything that they think is funny that the you want to post is definitely going to be investigated and they will be held responsible," said Assistant Chief Vicki Foster of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.  "I do think kids sometimes play and do things that they think will get attention, but the reality of it is we're going to give it the attention, but not necessarily the attention that they want."

Officials said the student reportedly made the treat on Snapchat, which was then shared onto social media. Officials said officers worked "diligently overnight" to arrest the student. The student was charged with felony making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property.

Additional officers were at Southwest Middle School Thursday for precautionary reasons, CMPD said. During Thursday's press conference, officials said attendance at Southwest Middle School decreased Thursday following the social media threat.

"CMS and law enforcement will pursue maximum punishment under criminal law and the student code of conduct," CMS Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ said in the letter. "I want to be clear with everyone - threats of any kind and possession of weapons of any type will not be tolerated. ALL threats, even casual or passed off as jokes, will be investigated and prosecuted aggressively."

CMPD is working with CMS to investigate further into the threats.

The investigation is active and ongoing and comes after a recent uptick of threats made against the schools since the school shooting in Florida.

Police said a second threat was made on Snapchat on Wednesday that targeted students who attend Community Middle House School. Officers believe they know the student who made the threat and are investigating the incident, police say.

On Wednesday, 17-year-old Fernando Vasquez reportedly brought a gun to South Mecklenburg High School. Police say Vasquez was a student at the south Charlotte high school when the incident occurred. He was attended baseball practice when officers found the firearm in his vehicle, police say.

He was charged with possessing a firearm on education property.

CMPD released this statement Thursday:

"The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Police Department take threats of violence towards students and staff very seriously and are currently investigating all of these incidents."

CMS issued a statement on the threats as well, saying that while the district does not have particular reason to believe the most recent threat to be credible, the district does take all threats made to students and staff seriously and all threats are investigated immediately and aggressively by law enforcement.

"Threats to schools are felony crimes and persons making threats to schools are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Anyone making a threat, even in a joking manner, should expect swift response from authorities and maximum enforcement measures taken to protect the safety and security of CMS students and staff across the district," the statement said.

Officials say if there should be credible cause for concern, CMS will alert families and appropriate action will be taken with the priority of student safety first.

Over the past few weeks, police have arrested teens and students related to threats made against area schools in and outside of Charlotte.

Incidents in Rowan County led to a school lockdown and arrests after violent threats were made against schools.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department arrested and charged a student with communicating threats against Druid Hills Academy.

RELATED: CMS student charged after message sent to fellow student showed gun, threat

Teens were charged after making threats against high schools in Burke County and two students who were accused of threatening a school shooting in Lancaster were charged.

All of the incidents happened in February of 2018.

Some schools have responded by increasing security on campus and asking students to alert faculty as soon as possible to monitor these threatening situations.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox sat down together Monday night to discuss school safety.

Putney spoke about the importance of being proactive and preventing a school shooting.

"Words are weighing on people. They want to see work. They want to see action," said Putney.

The police chief spoke about how he wasn't a fan of the political arguments that had arisen from the tragedy. He said he likes to look at situations from a public safety perspective.

"It's about how you can professionally make decisions that make people safer," said Putney.

Putney said guns shouldn't be allowed in classrooms in any capacity.

"I don't think you should have guns in classrooms. That doesn't make sense to me because we had 800 guns stolen last year and where are you going to secure them. It's a practical matter," explained the police chief.

Putney also spoke about how officers should respond to a shooting at a school. A former deputy in Broward County, Florida has been ridiculed for failing to confront the school shooter in Parkland, Florida.

President Trump said Monday that he would have searched for the shooter had he been a deputy at the school.

"I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon," said Trump.

Putney said Monday that law enforcement officers tasked with policing schools should be ready to confront a threat.

"We have to have a warrior spirit that you're going to go in and neutralize this threat. You can't stand by and let life after life get snuffed out because you're afraid," said Putney.

Putney noted that the school safety conversations were nothing new in Charlotte. He said now local leaders need to discuss potential funding and staffing adjustments that will ensure student safety. 

"Regardless of politics we're trying to do the right thing and I can lean on (Wilcox) to carry that same message so we're consistently trying to do what's best for our students," said Putney.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.