Edmonds-Woodway boy could be charged with cyber threats

Police: Student said he thought post would be ‘funny’
By Brian Soergel | Nov 15, 2018

A 17-year-old Edmonds-Woodway High School boy could be charged in juvenile court with a criminal cyber stalking threat – a gross misdemeanor – after he allegedly posted a Snapchat picture threatening a shooting at the school.

The case is now being reviewed by prosecutor Cheryl Johnson.

“The reckless decision to post such an inflammatory photo, in light of all the school shootings across our nation, caused our community great concern," said Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan. "We take these matters very seriously. The perpetrator is being held accountable.”

Edmonds School District spokeswoman Kelly Franson said she couldn’t comment specifically on student discipline, but that Edmonds-Woodway is taking appropriate disciplinary action.

The student’s post on Wednesday, Nov. 7, caused concern for the safety of the school after initial media reports. Some parents, on social media, said they were going to keep their students home Thursday, and Edmonds police beefed up security at the school.

According to a police report filed by Edmonds-Woodway School Resource Police Officer Tom Smith, a female student contacted school staff in the main office at the school at 11:35 a.m. to report the threat she and three other girls viewed on the popular social media app Snapchat in their chemistry class.

Smith immediately began an investigation to determine the source of the post and credibility of any threat to the school or community.

The post contained a photo of an unknown person, dressed in black with his face covered up to his eyes, holding a semi-automatic rifle with the caption, “Time to have some fun at Woodway,” with “Woodway” being common shorthand for Edmonds-Woodway.

Smith said the girl took a screenshot of the image, which was of another person’s cellphone, showing that student’s Snapchat feed.

Smith contacted the student, who said he was at lunch when another student sent him the photo. The student admitted he posted the photo on his Snapchat feed with the words, “Damn ya watch out he got that new ak from fort.”

“Fort” is short for the popular video games Fortnight.

Smith – who agreed that the weapon in the photo likely wasn’t real but did appear to be an Airsoft replica weapon – said the student told him he did not know the person who posted the photograph and, because it was on Snapchat, did not know who made the post. He said his Snapchat feed had since been deleted.

The student said that others in the Snapchat feed added captions to the photograph. One of the captions referenced “Woodway,” others did not. He did not recall who added each caption or what was said each time.

According to Sgt. Shane Hawley, it turns out the picture is of an unknown person, taken at an unknown time. The picture, he said, was originally altered by an Oregon high school student and captioned with “Time to have some fun at Southridge.”

Later that day, Edmonds police contacted a male student who first posted the Snapchat image that circulated around campus. That student told police that he is friends with the Oregon student and requested he alter the photo caption, changing “Southridge” to “Woodway.”

According to the police report, the student told Edmonds police he “thought it would be funny” to change the name of the school to “Woodway,” and asked a friend to do it. The student, who said he feared he was going to get in trouble, was adamant that he did not change the name to “Woodway,” blaming it on his friend.

The student said he meant no harm in posting the photo, and repeated that he just thought it would be funny.

The officer who interviewed the student told him that it did not matter if the gun was real or not. Those seeing the photo could believe the gun was real, and that recent school shootings understandably had students, staff and parents concerned.

According to the report, Edmonds-Woodway staff confirmed that “several hundred” students did not attend school on Nov. 8, the day after the incident.

“We determined he had no way of carrying out a threat of that magnitude, no plan of violence, and never intended for the picture to leave that chat group,” Hawley said. “Despite those facts, the picture caused a significant amount of fear among the Edmonds-Woodway school community.”

 

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