Suspect in Skyline shooting threat is former student, 16-year-old Edmonds boy
October 2, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
UPDATED — 2:15 p.m. Oct. 2, 2012
Police arrested a 16-year-old Edmonds boy, a former student at Skyline High School in Sammamish, early Tuesday for threatening online to shoot Skyline students.
Investigators seized computers and cellphones from the boy’s home Sept. 25, and discovered digital footprints to link a computer to the Skyline threat. Police did not find evidence of firearms or ammunition in the home.
The boy, a Skyline student from September 2010 until November 2011, faces charges of harassment and cyberstalking — both felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The suspect is in custody at the King County Youth Services Center in Seattle.
King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said the absence of firearms and ammunition did not lessen the gravity of the threat.
“This is not a teenage prank,” he said. “This is not a joke. I think I can speak on behalf of parents, the staff and the King County Sheriff’s Office when I say, don’t mess with the safety of our kids. We take it very, very seriously.”
The school resource officer, Alana Hall, said the suspect “was a teenage boy who made some poor choices at times,” but could not elaborate due to student confidentiality policies. The suspect left Skyline presumably after his family relocated to Edmonds, Principal Lisa Hechtman said.
Information from other students assisted police in the arrest.
“There had been statements made from students who might have associated with him or had been in communication with him,” Hechtman said.
The suspect did not seem surprised as police arrived for the arrest.
“This suspect was arrested because people felt comfortable providing this information to our school resource officer, and because our detectives were relentless and never let up,” Sammamish Police Chief Nate Elledge said.
(Sammamish contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services.)
Detectives also found evidence at the boy’s home linking the suspect to a similar threat against students at Lynnwood’s Meadowdale High School. Edmonds School District administrators closed Meadowdale to students April 13 in response to the threat.
Hechtman announced the arrest to cheering students just before noon, and then headed across the street to brief journalists at the City Hall news conference.
“I think that this says a lot for our students at Skyline. They were concerned enough. You don’t see a lot of people come forward with information, necessarily, these days,” Elledge said.
The suspect is due in King County Juvenile Court for arraignment Wednesday.
The incident started to unfold late Sept. 19 after a user posted the threat on the online bulletin board 4chan.
In the post, a user threatened to unleash a Columbine-style attack and shoot students on campus.
Issaquah School District administrators characterized the decision to close the Sammamish school as a precaution, and the school reopened Sept. 21, albeit at a later time and as extra police officers, parent volunteers and counselors greeted students.
Investigators spent the days after the discovery attempting to pinpoint the user behind the threat posted Sept. 19 on the online bulletin board 4chan.
Police traced the post to a proxy server in Sweden — a common technique to mask computer users’ identities — and hit a dead end.
“One of the messages we sent out shortly after this started was that we had reached sort of a dead end, but the fact is, our detectives, our deputies and school administration continued their diligent work,” Strachan said.
Investigators could not initially verify whether the threat came from a Skyline student or anybody in the area, despite several interviews and a forensic investigation by the King County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
In the 4chan post, the user outlined plans to take his or her father’s Erma sub-machine gun and “open fire on the people in the commons” until law enforcement officers killed the shooter, or until he or she ran out of ammunition.
The post made a specific reference to “jocks” as “the biggest offender” and also said “the people at that school use their wealth and social status to act superior to others.”
The user also included a photo purporting to show the sub-machine gun. Detectives discovered the image and source for the image on the suspect’s computer. The image came from a Philippines-based auction website similar to eBay.
Officials said bullying against the suspect did not appear to be a factor in the threat.
“Sometimes when we have a conversation about bullying and its link to threats or violence, sometimes we come away with the impression that that somehow excuses or justifies it,” Strachan said. “They are related, but it will never, ever justify or excuse threatening or threatening violence to students. Ever. Period.”