Grand Traverse prosecutor investigating copycat threats, warns of consequences

  • In US
  • 2021-12-08 13:32:00Z
  • By The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Dec. 8-TRAVERSE CITY - The Grand Traverse County Prosecutor's Office will investigate "copycat" threats of violence made at Traverse City Area Public Schools in the wake of a fatal school shooting in Oakland County.

Last week, multiple students made vague threats against TCAPS students and staff in the days following a shooting at Oxford High School that left four students dead and seven people injured. On Monday, the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor's Office sent out a statement informing the public that they will be further investigating the threats and warned of high consequences for such behavior.

Noelle Moeggenberg, the county prosecutor, said the threats were all vaguely written and almost all of the were sent online. One was written on a note and left in a Traverse City Central High School bathroom.

The threats were non-specific, Moeggenberg said, and contained phrases like "don't go to school tomorrow."

At a Dec. 2 press conference, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he is aware of more than 60 schools in Michigan that received 'copycat' threats following the Nov. 30 shooting.

"We anticipated a flood of false threats," Bouchard said. "I don't know what is in people's minds to think after a real tragedy it makes sense to make threats."

Between last week and Monday, more than 100 schools in Michigan canceled classes because of copycat threats made in their communities.

On Dec. 3, TCAPS Superintendent John VanWagoner said the district addressed multiple threats and inappropriate behaviors that sparked concern. All but one - a "vague written communication" found at Central High School at the end of the day - were determined to be non-credible.

VanWagoner said school administrators and police attended to the other threats, including one at East Middle School, "within minutes."

"Police are with us every step of the way," VanWagoner said.

All of the threats at TCAPS went through law enforcement, and the students making the threats were found to not have the intent to carry out a violent action or the means to do so. But while the threats were considered non-credible, the prosecutor's office will continue to investigate them.

"They're not credible in the fact that there wasn't going to be a school shooting or a bomb at school, but they were credible in - people have the have the intent or did something that caused a lot of people to be put in fear," Moeggenberg said. "So that is not as serious, but certainly very serious"

Moeggenberg said she and her office want to make people aware that even if their intent is not to cause physical harm - whether they are looking to be funny or just get a day off from school by threatening violence - they could still face felony charges and up to 20 years in prison.

Moeggenberg said that because of these threats, there currently is a temporary police presence at TCAPS middle and high schools in the mornings.

This copycat behavior will most likely be short-lived, Moeggenberg said. One more incident from Monday was being investigated Tuesday, but Moeggenberg said it is unlikely that threat is of the same nature as the others.

"This isn't something they should be messing around with at all. It is something that has very serious consequences for the school community and very serious consequences for the individuals perpetrating these crimes," Moeggenberg. "And now, I'm hoping that by getting out in front of this, that we can stop it."


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