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Cops and Courts

Elyria High student charged with web threat; police still investigating calls

  • Elyria-bomb-threat-5-jpg

    Elyria fire trucks block Middle Avenue on May 22.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE FILE

  • Device-jpg

    Elyria police shared a photo of this device discovered in a search Monday.

    PROVIDED PHOTO

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ELYRIA — A 15-year-old student from Elyria High School was being held Tuesday at the Lorain County Juvenile Detention Home on charges of making terroristic threats and inducing panic for a social media post made Monday just as law enforcement was sweeping the Middle Avenue building following a bomb threat.

Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino said the male, a sophomore at the school, sent a photo through photo sharing application Snapchat of what appeared to be some type of homemade electrical device. Red, green and blue lights illuminated the device in the image.

Under the photograph, a caption read, “Say I won’t bring this (expletive) to school.” There was also a picture of an airplane on both sides of the words, “ALLAHU ALBAR.”

A student saw the photo and alerted a parent, who then called police.

This took place Monday night as law enforcement officers, school officials and four explosive detection police dogs from the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority swept the inside and outside of the high school after police said they received a call from someone claiming to have placed a bomb on campus.

Costantino said about 9:12 p.m., a caller called the department’s non-emergency number, which is the number given through an internet search for the department. The male caller told a police sergeant that an explosive device had been placed in a trash receptacle on the high school’s campus.

Police said the caller claimed to be an Elyria High student who was upset with his teachers after receiving a bad grade. This person also claimed to have a gun and multiple other explosive devices he would use to “shoot up” the school after first period Tuesday.

“We did have dialogue with them and communication,” Costantino said. “The content of the conversation was disturbing in regard to intent to harm students and faculty of the school and law enforcement.”

The caller hung up, then called back and spoke with police a second time.

Monday night’s sweep of the building and surrounding grounds did not turn up any suspicious devices. Police were notified of the Snapchat post during the sweep, Costantino said. Detectives quickly determined the poster was the same student questioned May 22 regarding an incident police have described as “swatting.”

At this time, the student, whom police did not identify, is not being charged in connection with the phone calls Monday night. He told police it was a coincidence that he posted the photo as police were on scene at this school.

“But we are not discounting anything in regards to this situation,” Costantino said. “In interviewing this kid, he said it was coincidental that he happened to post this as the call came in. We still have to go through phone records, and we are going to continue to investigate this to find all the individuals involved.”

The investigation into the May 22 call also continues.

On May 22, police locked down the school for several hours before eventually letting students out early after a person or group of people said a student was in the bathroom with weapons and propane explosives.

The caller identified himself with the name of the now-arrested 15-year-old sophomore at the school, police said. While police were doing a sweep of the school, they removed the student from the classroom, took him to the police station for questioning and released him the same day.

Costantino said the student told police he made the post to his social media account because students were making fun of him because of the May 22 incident.

School went on Tuesday with a heavy police presence.

District spokeswoman Amy Higgins said the day was without disturbance despite police being very visible. Tuesday and today, students are on a modified schedule because of second semester final exams. The last day of school is Thursday.

“We had a lot of kids come in, and they acted like it was any other day,” she said. “They were not put off by the police presence. It was probably comforting to them to see their teachers and friends.”

Higgins said she had no attendance figures as students were only required to come for scheduled finals and could leave with prior parent permission.

As for the detained student, Costantino said he will be in the detention center until a Juvenile Court hearing determines next steps including his release. He is not known to police for past criminal activity, Costantino said.

“But, obviously, we would want safeguards in place when he is released to monitor his activities and limit his ability to be on social media sites,” he said.

Higgins could not comment on the student, but said school officials are considering all discipline options. Typically, discipline does not carry over from school year to school year, but there are exceptions in certain situations.

Higgins did not say if this case would be an exception.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.



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