A pair of students at Washington-Lee High School are now facing criminal charges after they allegedly posted baseless threats to carry out a shooting at the school on social media.
Arlington Police say the two students posted a Snapchat video last Wednesday (Oct. 31) which “contained verbal and written threats of a possible shooting at the school.”
Police then worked with school administrators to identify the students, and “detectives determined that the students did not actually have the means to carry out the threat.”
The department declined to release the names of the students, saying only that they’re under the age of 18, and said both were charged with threatening to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property, a felony.
“The Arlington County Police Department is committed to working with Arlington Public Schools to ensure the safety of our entire school community,” police wrote in a news release. “We encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about the serious nature of making threats. All reports of threats made at our schools and in our community are thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and where appropriate, charges will be sought against those responsible.”
A man who was “making verbal threats” against customers of a Clarendon cafe was tasered by police Monday morning.
The incident happened around 10:30 a.m. at the Peet’s Coffee at 3003 Washington Blvd, but it was preceded by a police dispatch less than an hour earlier, according to an Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman.
“At approximately 9:47 a.m., police were dispatched to the 3000 block of Washington Boulevard for the report of a suspect making verbal threats to customers inside a restaurant,” ACPD’s Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com. “Upon arrival, officers made contact with the suspect and he was subsequently banned from the property.”
She continued: “At approximately 10:28 a.m., police were again dispatched to the location for the report of trespassing as the suspect had returned to the restaurant and was causing a disruption. As officers attempted to place the suspect into custody, the suspect became combative and a struggle ensued. The suspect did not obey the lawful commands of the officers and a Taser was deployed.”
The suspect, whose name has not yet been released, was transported to a local hospital for evaluation. He is under police custody and charges are currently pending, Savage said.
Motorcycle Crash Closes Columbia Pike — Columbia Pike was closed in both directions for just over two hours this morning while police investigated a serious accident. A motorcycle reportedly crashed into a minivan between S. Frederick and Dinwiddie street, near the Arlington Mill Community Center. The motorcycle rider was seriously hurt and two people in the van were also taken to the hospital. [WJLA, Twitter]
Man Arrested for Threatening FCC Chair’s Family — A California man has been arrested and charged with sending emails that threatened to murder FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s family, over his support of the rollback of net neutrality rules. Pai has two children and lives in Arlington. Per an affidavit, one of the emails “listed the names and addresses of three preschools located in or around Arlington, Virginia, followed by the following sentence: ‘I will find your children and I will kill them.'” [Gizmodo, Washington Post]
Car Fire in Cherrydale — A car caught on fire in the garage of an apartment building in Cherrydale early this morning. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation. [Twitter, Twitter]
Plane Evacuated on DCA Tarmac — “Passengers were forced to evacuate a United Airlines plane at Reagan National Airport on Sunday after smoke was reported in the cabin… The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said that about 1 p.m. Sunday, Houston-bound flight 6122 was taxiing for takeoff when emergency crews were called for a report of smoke in the cabin. The plane’s emergency slides were deployed, and all passengers and crew members exited ‘without incident.'” [Washington Post, Fox News]
Lee Highway Planning to Move Forward? — “It’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. But, Arlington’s top elected official promises, the long-awaited study of development options along the Lee Highway corridor will be up and running by the end of the year.” [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy R. Johnson
The police department released the statistics after another series of threats against Yorktown High School and Williamsburg Middle School last night.
“The Arlington County Police Department continues to work with our partners at Arlington Public Schools to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff,” the department said. “[ACPD] encourages parents and guardians to talk to their children about the seriousness and possible consequences of making threatening statements.”
According to police, 13 of the 30 threats have been reported since the Parkland, Florida school shooting one month ago.
More from a press release:
The Arlington County Police Department has investigated 30 school-related threats or complaints this academic year, with 13 having been reported since February 14, the day of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. These include alleged threats to commit serious bodily harm as well as reports from concerned parents and community members regarding individuals who have made suspicious comments or social media postings. Following a thorough investigation into each report, police determined there were no credible threats to the safety and security of the students, staff or schools.
The Arlington County Police Department continues to work with our partners at Arlington Public Schools to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff. All allegations of threats and suspicious activity are taken seriously and each report is properly investigated and documented by police. We all play an important role in keeping our school community safe and students and staff are most well-acquainted with what activity may be suspicious at their schools. The community is encouraged to continue reporting suspicious activity by calling the Emergency Communication Center at 703-558-2222 or by filing an online crime report. Tips can also be reported anonymously by calling Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.
The Arlington County Police Department encourages parents and guardians to talk to their children about the seriousness and possible consequences of making threatening statements. Following an investigation by police and a review by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, those making threats to schools may be charged with Virginia Code §18.2-60 Threats of death or bodily injury to a person or member of his family; threats to commit serious bodily harm to a person on school property, a Class 5 felony; Virginia Code §18.2-83 Threats to bomb or damage buildings or means of transportation; false information as to danger to such buildings, etc.; punishment; venue, a Class 1 Misdemeanor; and/or Virginia Code §18.2-427 Use of profane, threatening, or indecent language over public airways or by other methods, a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]
Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
Update at 1 p.m. — Arlington County Police have issued a statement about the investigation via Twitter.
Yesterday, the police department was alerted to a potential threat of violence posted in a restroom at Yorktown High School. Police immediately began investigating the incident and at this time have determined that there are no credible threats to the safety of the school, (1/2)
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 1, 2018
students or staff. There will be extra police presence at the school on Thursday and Friday. The investigation into this incident is ongoing and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact police at 703-558-2222. (2/2)
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) March 1, 2018
Earlier: A threat scrawled on a bathroom wall has Yorktown High School on high alert.
In a letter to parents, Yorktown Principal Bridget Loft said that police are investigating and “community members may see a heightened police presence at Yorktown through the week,” but school is not being cancelled.
There has been a spike in school threats in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, including in the D.C. area. One parent said that students are in “a froth of anxiety” following the shooting.
“Some have expressed concerns about threats during a walkout protest as well, because they feel less secure outside the building,” said the parent.
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman says the threat at Yorktown is being taken seriously.
“We take threats very seriously and will continue to work with ACPD if any are made,” said Frank Bellavia. “We are asking our school community that if the hear or see something to say something to and adult or the police.”
“At this time, we are not aware of any other threats made to schools,” he added.
The full letter from Loft about the Yorktown threat is below.
Dear Yorktown Families:
Earlier today, Yorktown staff was made aware of a threat that was posted on a restroom wall indicating possible harm to the school later this week. The Arlington County Police Department was immediately made aware of the threat, and they are investigating the situation. For this reason, parents and community members may see a heightened police presence at Yorktown through the week.
We know that any rumor about a potential for violence is always alarming for our community, especially in light of the recent events in Florida. However, due to the recent events here at Yorktown, we know that emotions for our students, families, and staff have been especially heightened.
For these reasons, we wanted to share that we also learned that some students may have taken photos of what was posted and then shared those images out on social media. While we want our students always to report any threats they may see or hear about, we need to remind everyone that spreading rumors among classmates or on social media that have not been verified can create unnecessary panic and stress.
Please be assured that we always take threats of this sort very seriously. Any and all concerns about possible threats should be reported to an adult, but they should not be shared among students until we can investigate, since sharing unfounded threats will only increase anxiety for everyone.
We will continue to investigate this report and will work with the ACPD as well. If we hear more information about this threat, we will share it with you as soon as possible.
I also want to thank the Yorktown community for your support and responsiveness, and if you hear or see something that concerns you, please let me or a member of our Yorktown staff know immediately.
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) Washington-Lee High School is in “secure the building” mode as police investigate a threat.
“At approximately 12:07 p.m., police responded to the report of a telephone threat received at W-L,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The school has been secured as police investigate.”
Initial reports suggest the school received calls claiming to be from an expelled or suspended student, threatening violence. While police investigate the threat, officers and school employees are taking precautions.
“Staff are at every door to monitor people coming to the school,” said Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos. “Police are investigating. Classes are going on as scheduled.”
A heavy police presence could be seen around the school around lunchtime today. The W-L pool was closed to members of the public while the school was secured.
Dismissal is occurring as scheduled at Washington-Lee High School. The investigation into the phone threat is ongoing.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 10, 2017
That’s what reportedly happened to one woman in Arlington yesterday afternoon.
Except the terror quickly gave way to relief when the woman’s dad called and said he was fine — while she was gathering the ransom payment. Police are now investigating the incident.
From an Arlington County Police crime report:
ATTEMPT FRAUD, 161006026, 300 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 2:58 p.m. on October 6, police were dispatched to the report of attempted fraud and telephone threats. The female victim received a phone call at approximately 12:48 p.m. from an unknown caller stating he had kidnapped and would kill her father unless she provided him with money. While attempting to retrieve funds, the victim’s father called her place of employment advising that he was not in danger. The victim then ended the call and contacted police. The investigation is ongoing.
Hoax social media posts, often featuring images of sinister-looking clowns, have threatened schools across the country. Thus far the posts have led to numerous arrests of teens suspected of making the threats, but no reported violence.
Last night, two Instagram accounts — @virginiaclowns and @dmv_clowns — posted similar threats, warning of shootings at a number of area schools, including Kenmore, Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools in Arlington.
The threats have prompted a stepped-up police presence at Arlington schools this morning.
“We are aware [of the threats] and were in contact with the Arlington Police Department staff last night when we saw the messages,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “As a precaution, ACPD has had an increased presence at our schools this morning.”
Alarmed parents found out about the possible threat via two emails from Arlington Public Schools, fueling a rumor mill. However, police say they interviewed “several students” and determined there is no actual threat to the school.
“It was some graffiti that could be viewed as potentially threatening,” Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com. “At this point we have determined that it was more of a prank than a threat… a joke that was not very funny.”
In an email sent Wednesday,Williamsburg principal Dr. Ann McCarty informed parents about vandalism in boys restrooms. The vandalism included “urination in the heating pipes and inappropriate writing on the walls,” including “a direct threat to the school.”
We are writing to you today to let you know of an ongoing problem of vandalism that has been happening in our boys restrooms over the past weeks. We have had problems with urination in the heating pipes and inappropriate writing on the walls. However, today marked what we are deeming to be a serious incident given the content of the defacing. Today’s message involves a direct threat to the school. We are considering this incident to be serious and will be fully investigating in conjunction with our ACPD School Resource Officer. All APS policies will be enforced appropriately. We will address this issue at school, but we also ask that you assist us in having a conversation with your children about appropriate bathroom etiquette. Your assistance will help us with keeping our school safe and maintaining an orderly environment.
This afternoon (Thursday), McCarty revealed that there will be an additional police presence at the school on Friday, even while downplaying rumors that the the threat involved something that was supposed to happen on Friday, Feb. 20.
Dear Williamsburg Families,
We would like to thank everyone who came forward in our investigation after yesterday’s email. Please understand that because this has been a police matter from the start and we are required to maintain student confidentiality, no specific details were shared. This was not intended to keep parents out of the loop; instead, it was to protect the fidelity of our investigation and to maintain confidentiality.
First, I would like to address the misinformation that is currently circulating in the community. Please know that original threat was not for Friday, February 20, and we have no reason to believe that there is a heightened risk for student safety tomorrow. However, to be proactive, we will have additional police presence at the school.
I also wanted to let you know that our investigation has provided us with the much-needed information to move forward and address the student(s) who we believe were involved. As a result of the investigation, at this time we do not believe that a threat exists to Williamsburg.
Finally, we will continue to monitor any and all safety concerns here at Williamsburg. The protection of our students and the entire Williamsburg community is always our top priority. We utilize all of our available resources, including the Arlington County Police Department, to ensure student safety.
We appreciate your patience and support as we have worked through this police investigation, and I want to thank everyone who helped us with information.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia declined comment.
A sheriff’s deputy approached the 39-year-old man’s apartment around noon in an attempt to serve an eviction notice. According to police, the man threatened the deputy, as well as himself, and then barricaded himself in the apartment.
Police evacuated the neighboring apartments and set up a command post in one of the units, where they were able to talk with the man on the phone. The man came out of his apartment more than an hour later and police took him into custody. He was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for a mental evaluation.
Once the man exited his apartment, police searched it and found the shotgun the man had referred to when threatening the sheriff’s deputy.
It is unclear if the man will be charged. Nobody was hurt in the incident.
Photo courtesy @vtspaeth