Facebook, friends lead police to suspect in Skyline threat
October 9, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Police said a trail of Facebook comments led investigators to a suspect in the Sept. 20 shooting threat against Skyline High School.
Facebook taunts directed at Skyline High School students linked the incident to a 16-year-old Edmonds boy, a former Skyline student. Police said Parker N. Mace posted the Skyline threat on the online bulletin board 4chan just before midnight Sept. 19.
Then, after frightened Skyline students created a Facebook group to discuss the threat, police said Mace posted mocking comments. The taunts, plus information from friends, led police to a surprising arrest in the case.
King County prosecutors filed a felony harassment charge against Mace on Oct. 4, after King County Chief Juvenile Court Judge Helen Halpert ordered electronic home detention and restricted computer access for him. Mace pleaded not guilty to the charge Oct. 5.
The maximum penalty for felony harassment is up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Police arrested Mace at home in Edmonds early Oct. 2. Investigators said he did not seem surprised as officers arrived.
In the 4chan post, the user outlined plans to take a submachine gun and “open fire on the people in the commons” the next morning and continue until the ammunition ran out, or law enforcement officers killed the shooter.
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.”
Issaquah School District administrators decided to close Skyline the next day in response to the threat and raced to notify parents into the early morning hours.
Absences increased by 70 percent throughout the school district Sept. 20 as concerned parents kept students home.
Skyline reopened Sept. 21, albeit at a later time and as extra police officers, parent volunteers and counselors greeted students.
Troubled tenure at Skyline
In the subsequent investigation, Issaquah Police Detective Ryan Raulerson noticed a Skyline students’ Facebook group — titled “Not going to school tomorrow because of threat” — and noticed Mace’s comments.
Raulerson alerted a King County Sheriff’s Office investigator, and deputies met Mace, a student at Edmonds-Woodway High School, on campus Sept. 20 to discuss the Facebook comments.
Mace appeared alarmed after a deputy asked if he had anything to do with the threat, court documents state. Instead, he told the deputy, “No, but I did make those A-hole comments on Facebook.”
Police traced the 4chan post to a proxy server in Sweden — a common technique to mask computer users’ identities — and hit a dead end.
Raulerson informed the King County investigator about a similar threat against Meadowdale High School in April. The school is in the same district as Edmonds-Woodway. In the Meadowdale threat, investigators traced the post to a proxy server in Germany.
Police also heard from a Skyline junior, a friend of Mace. The friend noticed similarities in the language used in the Skyline threat and the verbiage Mace used in their chats on Facebook and Xbox Live.
In addition, the friend said Mace bragged in April about how Mace “trolled my school so hard. I just got the day off.” (Mace appeared to attend Meadowdale in April, but a spokeswoman for the Edmonds School District did not respond to a request for comment.)
The next day, the friend learned about the threat and closure at Meadowdale.
Once Skyline reopened Sept. 21, the friend approached the school resource officer, Alana Hall, and mentioned the possible connection to Mace, a Skyline student from September 2010 until November 2011.
Hall described the suspect Oct. 2 as “a teenage boy who made some poor choices at times” and said she knew Mace through incidents reported to police.
In November 2011, administrators expelled Mace from Skyline for bringing LSD-laced gummy bears to school, according to court documents.
Hall said she knew Mace possessed significant computer and Internet skills.
Investigators asked the friend to display Mace’s Facebook page, and a detective noticed references in archived chats to Mace using a proxy server. Mace also used a lowercase I rather than the grammatically correct capital I — another connection to the Skyline 4chan post.
Investigators seized computers and cellphones from the boy’s home Sept. 25. Mace told police they would not find anything incriminating on the computers.
‘This is not a teenage prank’
Police did not find evidence of firearms or ammunition in the home. However, investigators did discover digital footprints to link a computer to the Skyline threat.
The user behind the 4chan post also included a photo purporting to show the submachine gun. Detectives discovered a thumbnail image and source for the image on the suspect’s computer. The photo came from a Filipino classified ad website.
Investigators also interviewed a classmate of Mace at Edmonds-Woodway. The classmate said Mace boasted about the Skyline and Meadowdale threats a few days later in a computer programming class, and mentioned using a proxy server in Sweden.
“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,” King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said at a Sammamish City Hall news conference after the arrest.
The sheriff 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.”
In the hours after the arrest, police and school 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.”
Principal Lisa Hechtman announced the arrest to cheering students at the school just before noon Oct. 2, and then headed across the street to brief journalists at the City Hall news conference.
“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.