Two arrested after online threat causes Bloomfield school evacuation
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Students from alternative school diverted Friday
FARMINGTON — An online school shooting threat posted late Thursday night by a 17-year-old who had been expelled from Charlie Y. Brown Alternative School in Bloomfield led to two arrests, Bloomfield Police and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday night.
The threat also led to the school’s closure for part of the day Friday.
“The FBI is, in fact, pursuing charges on the juvenile,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jayme Harcrow told The Daily Times Friday night.
Reached by phone today, Frank Fisher, the public affairs officer for the FBI's Albuquerque Division, said he had no new information on the case or about any charges.
A press release outlined the investigation spurred by a report of the threatening post and online images investigators found that appear to show the 20-year-old suspect with or showing off firearms.
“In the comment section of the original post, a 20-year-old male made a statement in support of the threat,” said a press release from Harcrow. The 20-year-old suspect "was previously removed from the same school for truancy and at one point was trespassed from school property.”
Action was swift. Bloomfield Superintendent Kim Mizell said district officials were informed of the threat at 7 a.m. Friday and immediately took steps to divert buses carrying Charles Y. Brown students to Bloomfield High School. Law enforcement and district officials were posted at the entrance to the alternative school to keep students who walked to the school from entering the building, and those students also were transported to Bloomfield High School.
The school was reopened later in the day once officials received words the suspects had been arrested and the threat had been addressed, Mizell said.
“This morning, Charlie Y. Brown Alternative School was evacuated and cleared due to fear generated by the social media post and the school’s history with both suspects,” Harcrow's press release stated. “In partnership with Bloomfield Police Department, both suspects were arrested and charged with interference with the educational process, a petty misdemeanor.”
The release said the 20-year-old suspect had two warrants out for his arrest for “failure to appear on a felony distribution charge and failure to appear for traffic violations.”
Investigators seized two cell phones and a laptop. Phone records and social media accounts from both suspects are currently being seized and investigated, the release stated.
The alternative school has an enrollment of approximately 80 students, Mizell said. Classes will resume at the school on Monday.
Undersheriff Shane Ferrari and Bloomfield Police Chief Randy Foster thanked all agencies involved for their fast work and cooperation.
“Since the school shooting in Aztec, we have unfortunately seen other communities impacted by horrific school violence,” Ferrari said in the prepared statement. “We will continue to investigate all threats to the end, charging anyone associated with those threats to the fullest extent of the law. The FBI will be assisting local law enforcement in this investigation and we will update the public as more information becomes available.”
The photos released by the Sheriff's Office were posted on the adult suspect's "social media accounts and located by Detectives with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office," the release said. "The Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies take these threats very seriously and will exhaust every resource imaginable to try and prevent these attacks before they happen."
Mizell said the district was not inundated with phone calls from concerned parents Friday morning, which she attributed to the fact that the threat was defused so quickly and the suspects were taken into custody. She said she wished district officials had known about the threat before the bus drivers had begun their routes, but aside from a few issues, she was pleased with the way the situation was addressed.
"I felt like we handled things well," she said. "We'll continue to be very proactive."
Night editor Mike Easterling contributed to this story.
Note: The age of the adult suspect was later confirmed to be 20, not 19 as the initial press release stated. The story has been modified to reflect his correct age.