60 Michigan schools close amid 'tidal wave' of copycat threats after Oxford shooting
Pontiac — Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard noted at least 60 Michigan schools have closed amid copycat threats circulating following the Oxford High School shooting on Tuesday and vowed to those making false claims "we will find you."
Bouchard said the authorities "anticipated a flood of false threats." The FBI and the Secret Service are joining in to help assess claims, he said.
"I don't know what's in people's minds to make them think that after a real tragedy it makes sense to make false threats," Bouchard said. "It is ridiculous that you're inflaming the fears and passion of parents and teachers and the community in the midst of a real tragedy."
Some think it's funny, others think it'll get them out of school, but Bouchard stressed, it's a crime.
"I'm confident (those making false claims) will be held accountable," he added. "If you're making threats, we're going to find you."
Bouchard was joined Thursday afternoon by Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Prosecutor Karen McDonald and area police chiefs and school superintendents and officials with the FBI to discuss the "tidal wave" of copycat threats in the wake of the Oxford shooting that killed four students and injured seven other people.
"A false threat of terrorism is a felony, it’s a 20-year felony. We will charge it and we will hold people accountable," McDonald said.
Bouchard said his department is "ramping up" its investigation into the threats which he said affected schools as far away as Bay City. The sheriff added that none of the threats were credible.
Bouchard said the false threats are “overrunning our resources” to have police investigate them, especially those that are from out of state or that have already been investigated.
Timothy Waters, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office, said more resources and assistance will be provided to help local law enforcement to “track down every single one of these threats.”
Waters said they’ve tracked 25 threats of which 13 have been “fully vindicated.”
“There’s a lot of people out there that are concerned and they have every right to be. We encourage folks that if you have any threat information to please report it to your local law enforcement contacts or you can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI to provide that information.”
The news briefing comes after numerous Metro Detroit school districts have canceled classes or dealt with a deluge of students seeking to leave schools amid reports of social media messages some have interpreted as threatening similar violence.
Authorities in Southfield, Sterling Heights and Flint said they made arrests tied to school threats.
In Troy, the school district canceled Thursday classes after learning of a Snapchat message of a rumored threat to a school in Rochester or Troy.
Similarly, Holly Area Schools "received multiple reports of a potential shooting threat" on social media late Wednesday, sparking a Holly Police investigation.
Warren Consolidated Schools, Walled Lake Consolidated School District, Rochester Community Schools, Bloomfield Hills and Huron Valley Schools, among others, closed Thursday for similar reasons. West Bloomfield School District shut down activities and closed schools through Friday.
Other districts said they were aware of threats and were increasing safety measures, but chose not to cancel classes. Detroit Country Day School and Berkley School District were among those to remain open.
In Southfield, a 17-year-old is accused of bringing a gun to school Wednesday and in Sterling Heights, a girl was arrested after making threats against Sterling Heights Stevenson High School, authorities said.
On Wednesday, Oxford High School sophomore Ethan Crumbley was arraigned on 24 counts tied to the Tuesday shooting at Oxford high that left four students dead and seven other people injured.
Crumbley, 15, who was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, terrorism and other counts, is being held in Oakland County Jail without bond.
Bouchard said Thursday that former claims of rumored threats in Oxford weren't related to Tuesday's shooting and weren't deemed credible.
Earlier Thursday, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said individuals making threats against Michigan schools should be prosecuted and face "significant consequences."