Police find source of social media threat, Howell district says
Authorities said Tuesday they have found a person believed to be the source of a social media threat to the Howell Public School District over the weekend.
The person is a 16 year old male high school student in Lillington, North Carolina, said district Superintendent Erin J. MacGregor on Tuesday night after discussions with Michigan State Police, who worked with the Harnett County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina.
"The detectives at the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department interviewed the student this afternoon and determined this was not a credible threat," MacGregor said in an email. "The threat was made as a result of an online video game the students were playing."
MSP is finalizing its investigation and will submit its findings to the Prosecutor's Office, MacGregor said.
Meanwhile, classes resumed Tuesday for the district in Livingston County after they were canceled Monday because of the threat, which the district explained Monday on its Facebook page.
“At 11:15 pm Sunday evening,” the district said, “Superintendent (Erin) MacGregor was notified by the Michigan State Police that a Howell High School student received a message via the social media site, Twitter. The message threatened to ‘shoot your school up.’ ”
MSP’s computer crimes unit identified the email and out-of-state IP address connected to the Twitter account used in the threat. A warrant was submitted to Google for personal information connected to the email address, officials said.
Around 6 p.m. Monday, the information led to a suspect who lives in Lillington, North Carolina, MacGregor said.
“While the investigation is ongoing, we feel reassured with the events that have transpired today,” she said. “In turn, we are planning to have students and staff return to school (Tuesday). As a precaution, we will have additional law enforcement present at our schools throughout the day.”
Parents and community members posted their thoughts, several mentioning they had received a phone call from the district.
“I can’t believe teachers, kids, and parents have to deal with this kind of thing regularly now,” said one poster. “It’s so heartbreaking. That being said, thank you Howell for closing, and doing your best to keep everyone safe!”
Another parent said she was “wondering what to tell my kid. I don’t want to lie, but she’s only in first grade and gets freaked easily. What worries me is when she goes back, kids will be talking and it will get out so I need a way to explain it without scaring her.”
District enrollment is about 8,400 students.
In mid-February, West Bloomfield High School received a threat via Twitter, but investigators were able to catch it early enough that school did not close, though the school did have an increased police presence that day. The teen accused of making the threat was arrested.