Crime

Same school shooting threat circulating on social media in several NC counties

Officials are investigating a rash of school shooting threats made on social media and directed at schools across North Carolina.

School districts where threats have been reported since the weekend include Burke, Cleveland, Gates, Harnett, Hyde, Nash, Pasquotank, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson counties. It appears one version of a threatening post is being reproduced and shared across the state.

“This same post has been circulating through many other schools in the state of North Carolina,” the Nash County Sheriff’s Office said in a Tuesday morning statement. “Every time the post gets passed on, the name of a school or school district gets changed, therefore based on what we’ve seen we do not believe this is a legitimate threat but simply a social media hoax that continues to get shared.”

Local law enforcement agencies increased presence at the schools following the threats.

The Wilson Police Department reported multiple calls late Monday night regarding social media posts claiming there would be school shootings in Nash and Wilson counties on Tuesday.

Callers said they had heard about the social media posts through others, the Wilson Police Department said Tuesday.

“Other agencies across North Carolina have also reported similar calls regarding these types of threats circulating on social media tonight,” the department wrote on Facebook. “It appears that there may be some widespread trend or campaign.”

On Monday afternoon, staff at Harnett Central Middle School discovered writing on a girls bathroom stall that read, “School shooting Feb. 20,” according to the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office.

“The incident is under investigation,” Sheriff Wayne Coats said a Facebook post Tuesday morning. “At this time we do not know who made the writing or their intent.”

Pitt County officials said they discovered threats toward several schools in the district after a social media threat regarding South Central High School in Winterville on Monday morning.

A photo used in the posts pictured a South Carolina student who was arrested last week, Pitt County Schools said in a joint statement with the Greenville Police Department and Pitt County Sheriff’s Office. The South Carolina student posted the photo after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, the report said.

“Snapchat is cooperating with the investigation and has informed local officers that they have received similar reports across the country since the arrest of this young man in South Carolina,” the statement said.

The Hyde County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that someone reported a student of the Mattamuskeet school campus also posting a threat on Snapchat.

“The post was a picture of a white male with his face half covered, holding a firearm,” the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office said. “Across the screen was written Mattamuskeet Wed. 1:30 along with another school that is not in our county.”

Gates County schools were placed on lockdown Monday because of a threat posted on social media.

Barry Williams, the superintendent of Gates schools, said the threat posted about 10 a.m. Monday could not be authenticated, but is still being investigated.

“School officials, administrators, the school resource officer and the Gates County Sheriff’s (Office) are working collaboratively, taking all possible measures to ensure a safe and secure school environment for the students and staff,” Gates said in a press release.

In Cleveland County, officials on Monday said they located and are investigating a person who made a threatening post regarding Shelby High School.

Also on Monday, a student reportedly made threats to “shoot up the school” at Patton High School in Morganton.

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office charged the 17-year-old student with making a false report concerning mass violence on an educational property.

The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office also reported “numerous social media posts and telephone calls concerning possible violence to occur at a number of high schools.” The sheriff’s office has been investigating the claims since Friday but had found no credible threat by the time of a Monday press release.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank school officials said a student made a specific threat against Northeastern High School on Saturday. Law enforcement and school officials determined the student was unable to carry out the threat, but Northeastern had additional police presence Monday.

In Wake County, school leaders responded Tuesday morning to an inquiry on Twitter regarding a possible situation at North Garner Middle School.

The administration is investigating “various versions of rumors that the students are sharing with each other,” but indicated there was no threat to the school at the time.

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