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Archive for Tuesday, April 27, 1999

LAWRENCE POLICE QUESTION SWJH STUDENT ABOUT THREAT

April 27, 1999

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Police questioned a 15-year-old Southwest Junior High School student after he e-mailed to a girl a dire warning he later claimed was just a joke.

A 15-year-old Southwest Junior High School student told police he'd just been joking when he sent an e-mail note to a fellow student mentioning the shootings in Littleton, Colo., and warning her to stay out of the hallways on Monday.

But his instant message on America Online to a 14-year-old acquaintance didn't garner any laughter from school staff or the police.

Instead of chuckling, Principal Trish Bransky called the Lawrence Police Department about 9:45 p.m. Sunday when she heard about the e-mail.

"Anytime we receive any information that has a threat, we take it very seriously and we involve the authorities," Bransky said Monday.

The timing of the message, in light of last week's tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, wasn't lost on Bransky or police.

But the principal said her reaction would have been the same before the shootings.

"Regardless of the timing we would take any threat seriously," she said, though

"I think the events in Littleton certainly raised the nation's awareness about these kind of things."

Police expected some incidents like this one, Sgt. George Wheeler said.

Officers interviewed the student with his parents.

"We interviewed him, determined there was no credible threat and didn't find any weapons to carry out that threat," Wheeler said.

"His intent appears to have been as a joke. We didn't take it as a joke.

"Here's what we suspected and we're kind of prepared for: There are always copycat kinds of events after a traumatic situation like this. We're kind of caught between not wanting people to be alarmed but wanting people to report this kind of thing to us so we can check it out and make sure it's not a credible threat."

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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