Eight juveniles and young adults in Central and Eastern Kentucky were in custody Monday after allegedly making threats over the weekend to schools in nearly a dozen counties, including Jackson, Jessamine, Knox and Clay.
In Franklin County, schools will have temporarily ramped up security Tuesday provided by the Frankfort Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, police announced Monday night on Facebook.
Schools in Franklin County received three threats, two of which were at Western Hills High School, according to WKYT. Two of the three threats have been ruled unsubstantiated, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office told WKYT.
In Jessamine County, two teens face terroristic threatening charges after allegedly using the image of an uninvolved third person to make a threat on social media against schools, according to police and jail records.
Elsewhere in Kentucky, a middle schooler in Clay County was taken into custody after posting a threat on Facebook, and in Knox County three people were arrested in connection with social media threats against the school district there.
In Jackson County, a 15-year-old girl is accused of saying she would bring a bomb and blow up her school, according to Kentucky State Police. The school was searched, no explosives were found and the girl was charged with terroristic threatening. A 14-year-old boy was charged after a Laurel County middle school threat.
Yet more districts have reassured parents through prominent social and website posts that rumors online or elsewhere were not credible threats.
In the most notorious case, Tristan H. Kelly, 19, and Cody T. Ritchey, 18, were jailed Sunday after they were arrested and charged about 5:21 a.m. by Nicholasville police, officer Kevin Grimes said.
The police department worked with the social media network Snapchat to get account and other information about who made the post, Grimes said in Facebook posts.
The two used a social media image of an individual who “was not involved with the threats,” Grimes said. “We were fairly confident that (the person) was not involved in making the post but until we were able to make contact with him and other family members we could not come out and say that.” The name of the uninvolved individual was initially circulated.
In the Nicholasville threat, a photo of a boy with a handgun accompanied text that said “Be ready for school monday Jessamine County.” (Actually, no classes were scheduled Monday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday.)
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the father of the boy whose photo was used in the Snapchat threat wrote: “OK so today’s another day and they arrested the kids responsible for using a picture of my son to try and ruin his life and scare the community. I appreciate everyone for the support they gave me.
“Now for the people who thrive off hurting other people and support the bullies of the world hopefully one day your eyes will be opened. In this situation my son was 110% innocent and didn’t deserve any of the bashing, and hate people said about him. Taking pics with guns is not a crime, but making threats is. My son made no threats whatsoever, so please just leave him alone. God Bless.”
For whatever reasons, the school shootings in Florida and Kentucky have led to more threats against schools across the country and in Kentucky, according to law enforcement and numerous media reports. In some cases, reports about mass shootings encourage others to consider carrying out similar attacks, according to research. But others have used social media posts to create fear and anxiety only. One tactic is to make others appear responsible. Kids who post social media photos of themselves with guns make that easier to accomplish.
The Manchester Enterprise, the newspaper in Clay County, reported Sunday that “a Facebook post by a Clay Middle School student threatening violence was acted upon swiftly by the board and police agencies.”
Superintendent William Sexton told the newspaper that “authorities placed the child in custody and he’s now lodged in the Breathitt juvenile facility.”
In the Knox County case, Kentucky State Police said in a news release that police began receiving calls around 2 p.m. Sunday about a social media post threatening schools.
The threat was to kill people with guns, said Trooper Shane Jacobs, a state police spokesman.
The state police Electronic Crimes Branch tracked down the address where the threat originated, according to a news release.
The preliminary investigation indicates two girls ages 13 and 16 came up with the idea to send out the threat in hopes of getting school canceled, according to the release.
Trooper Jonathan Corey charged both girls with second-degree terroristic threatening. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.
A third person, 19-year-old Megan Scott of Corbin, who attends Knox Central High School, was charged with complicity in the case because she allegedly knew about the threat but failed to notify authorities.
Barbourville police and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office helped investigate.
“We take any and all threats seriously,” Knox County Sheriff Mike Smith wrote on Facebook.
A social media post Saturday with threats toward North Laurel Middle School led to the arrest of a 14-year-old male student, according to Kentucky State Police. The boy sent a message to another student threatening to “shoot up” the school.
After the juvenile’s arrest a few hours later, he was taken to the Breathitt County Juvenile Detention Center and was charged with terroristic threatening, KSP said.
Charges of terroristic threatening, depending on the degree, can carry sentences anywhere from 10 years in prison to a fine of $500 in Kentucky.
Rockcastle and Madison school districts posted reassurances Sunday night and Monday on Facebook or on their websites that rumors of threats were not credible. Both county’s high schools will have more of a police presence.