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‘It’s not a game:’ Law enforcement sends stern warning to report, not repost school threats

Calling in such threats is a felony that comes with life-changing consequences
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 5:29 PM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - Across eastern North Carolina, law enforcement has been inundated with threats of violence in schools being passed around on social media.

Whether they’re a hoax or not, parents are alarmed, students are fearful, and law enforcement is tied up in a costly investigation.

“When I was in school, it was someone pulling the fire alarm; couple years after that, they were going to bomb threats; now, this is kind of this generation’s way of causing mass chaos,” said Pender County Sheriff’s Office Captain James Rowell.

Pender County deputies arrested a teen last week for making a threat against Heide Trask High. New Hanover deputies have also spent countless hours over the last week investigating their own threats, and making their own arrest regarding the threat of a shooting at Hoggard High School.

Calling in such threats is a felony that comes with life-changing consequences, but investigators say the original poster isn’t the only person who could get in trouble under the current law.

“The way it’s worded, everyone who screenshots or shares it can be in violation,” explained Rowell.

Even re-sharing an image of the threat as a good-natured warning to friends is technically against the law.

“You could be getting woken up at 3:30 in the morning as a 14-year-old to talk to police. This isn’t theoretical. This is actually happening in the district,” said District Attorney Ben David.

Each time the post makes its rounds, it makes it harder for investigators to find out from where it originated.

Last week there were more than 20 calls to the 911 center, and about a dozen more emails about one singular threat at Heide Trask.

“We were getting phone calls last week from Sampson County, New Hanover County, all the neighboring counties, dealing with one threat that was made at our school. It’s the internet, how do you put a number on who you’re reaching,” said Rowell.

There’s no such things as a harmless rumor under the law and, credible or not, these threats take precious time and resources to run down.

“It’s not a game, it’s not a joke, and it’s not funny; we take it very serious,” said Sheriff Alan Cutler.

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