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Teen’s threats stir Santa Clarita Valley

Canyon Country boy arrested after online posts threaten school shootings

Posted: August 18, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2014 2:00 a.m.

This screenshot of the posts made by Instagram user "yaboyplank" shows a photo of several guns, including assault rifles, along with the caption making threats against SCV high school students.

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A 15-year-old Canyon Country boy was arrested Sunday morning on suspicion of posting threats against students online through Instagram, following a swift and overwhelming response by sheriff’s deputies to calls from “hundreds” of concerned parents, according to parents and local deputies.

Within 12 hours of the threats posted online, sheriff’s deputies worked with parents, school officials and officials at “various social media platforms” including Instagram, to make an arrest the day before the first full week back at school.

The suspect, who remains in custody today on felony threat charges, acted alone, had no weapons in his possession and had no real intent of carrying out acts of violence as allegedly threatened, Lt. John Roberts told reporters gathered at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station Sunday.

“Based on our investigation he acted alone,” Roberts said, promising a stepped-up presence by law enforcement at schools Monday morning.

One of the posts on Instagram, made by a user named yaboyplank shows a photo of several guns, including assault rifles.

The caption with the photo read: “To the people who live in the SCV area. There will be a huge (expletive) shooting soon and a lot of you (expletive)s are going to die. We are aiming our guns mostly at high school students so you pieces of (expletive) better be ready because blood will be shed and families will suffer. No mercy will be shown. Slow and painful deaths will happen on a very dreadful day. I must not tell you which day it will be, you will find out yourself. Get ready (expletive)s it’s time to die.”

A second posting by yaboyplank, illustrated with a photograph of an unspecified Valencia High School — a different school from the one in the SCV — reads: “Valencia High School has been nominated to be shot up first.”

And, a third posting by the same person, next to photos of blood-stained bodies, read: “Death makes the world go round. Can’t wait for every last one of you mindless people (expletive) die.”

Lt. Brenda Cambra, who heads the sheriff’s Detective Bureau, posted a message online, alerting the public to the threat and the investigation.

“Deputies responded and found that an Instagram post, threatening to shoot high school students on an unspecified date had been posted,” she wrote in a statement released Sunday morning. “Threats against women and racial threats were also included. The post included photos of guns, dead bodies and a school marquee for a ‘Valencia High School.’”

At about 9 a.m. Sunday, following a night of “extra deputies” called in to help with the investigation, deputies executed a search warrant at a residence in Canyon Country where they took a 15-year-old boy into custody, Lt. Tom Bryski told The Signal.

And, while the boy’s parents were shocked to learn of the alleged threats, they cooperated fully with deputies searching the boy’s home, Deputy Josh Dubin told reporters.

“At this time, we feel he acted alone,” Dubin said. “There was no actual intent to carry out the threats.

“No weapons were recovered, no weapons were in play,” Dubin said.

The boy, whose name was not disclosed, remains in the custody of Los Angeles County Probation officers, he said.

Response by parents
“Last night, at approximately 10 p.m., our deputies became aware of some posts on Instagram regarding threats made to local high school students and students in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Dubin said.

“We take this type of thing very seriously and immediately began an investigation,” he said. “Some of the detectives responded from home, off-duty, to immediately jump on this investigation.”

At least 25 concerned parents called the sheriff’s station. One woman said the response by parents was swift and overwhelming.

“There were hundreds of people on Facebook last night (Saturday),” said Dara McHenry, the mother to a Valencia sophomore. “We were texting each other all night.”

She said her heart was in her stomach when she saw the posts. “I was so freaked by this,” she said.
McHenry’s friend — also a mother of a 10th grade Valencia High School student — said: “He (the suspect) definitely called out Valencia.

“I can’t believe this is happening in our community,” she said.

Karin Tucker, a Santa Clarita Valley mother of four, said she was alerted to the posts by her eighth grade daughter.

“My daughter called me saying ‘Mom, I have something to show you.’”

When she told her daughter to wait a second, her daughter reportedly said: “No, you have to come right now. I have to show this to you right away.”

When Tucker stood in front of the computer screen staring at the images posted with the threats, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, she said.

“It was all upper case,” she said about the words used in the threat. “It said there would be bloodshed, a lot of torture and a lot of bloodshed. It was so disturbing, the language he used.”

Tucker said she phoned the sheriff’s station right away only to find out other parents had already called.

“When I reported it, they (deputies) said they were already aware of it,” she said.

Until she received assurances Sunday of deputies promising to increase their presence as schools Monday, she was not going to send her kids to school.

“Education is important but my child’s safety is more important than school,” she said.

School response

School officials took immediate action Saturday night when they learned of the threats, said Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“We are so grateful for the quick actions by the sheriff’s station,” Pinsker told reporters. “Through their efforts, starting in the middle of the night when many of us were still asleep, they were already investigating this situation.”

Pinsker would say only that the suspect is a student at one of the schools within the Hart District.

“We have been assured we will have extra presence on all our campuses tomorrow,” she said.

“We will prosecute and there will be consequences for any student who pulls a prank like that,” she said. “We are all taking this very seriously.”

School counsellors will also be on hand, Pinsker said, for any student seeking psychological help.

Response from school officials was swift, she said.

“This morning, we became aware of a threat that was posted on social media made against our high schools,” Hart District Superintendent Rob Challinor said in a message sent to parents Sunday.

“We take threats of this nature very seriously and we are working closely with the LA County Sheriff’s Department,” he said in an email notification.

“Extra precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff on all of our campuses, while this is being investigated,” he said. “We are looking forward to a day of student learning tomorrow, as we begin the first full week of the new school year.”

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
On Twitter
@jamesarthurholt

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