A 15-year-old male student was arrested last week, following a threatening social media post toward his high school that was meant as a joke.
Late on Wednesday, Oct. 28, Saanich Police received multiple calls about a concerning post on a social media group related to, but not run by, a local high school. The post contained a photo of a weapon and a caption warning students not to attend school the following day.
As a result of the perceived threat, police used significant resources to track down the suspect and prevent a possible attack on the school.
“Other files that we had perhaps had in the days leading up to that had to be taken and put on the back burner,” said police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Eassie at a press conference on Thursday. “This had a profound effect on our regular business hours on that day in question.”
Police coordinated with officials from School District 61 and posted uniformed officers outside the school the next morning, with non-uniformed officers inside, to ensure the safety and well-being of students.
Investigators identified the youth in question, who was taken into custody at his home.
“He did admit to taking the photograph, he admitted to posting the photograph and his expression was that he didn’t think that doing so would be perceived the way that it was,” said Eassie, adding that police recovered the weapon and confirmed it is a legal weapon.
“The youth in question had intended it to be nothing more than a joke or a prank of some sort. He has indicated there was no intention whatsoever to follow through on the perceived threat.”
The youth since been released with the promise to appear in court later this month, and on the condition he refrain from using social media. Initially, the teen was also given a condition not to attend the high school in question, but an application to the court has allowed him to return to the school.
Charges of Mischief Under $5000 have been recommended and the information from the investigation has been forwarded to Crown for approval.
Recognizing that publicizing the event may lead to copycat incidents, Eassie said the department wants to use the ramifications of this “joke” to deter others from making similar posts on social media.
“We’re putting the information out today as a warning to others that may use social media sites to really consider the context of what they’re posting,” he said. “Clearly, if you’re posting something that could be perceived as a threat to the public or another individual, you’re crossing a very fine line.”
Eassie urged parents to be aware of what social media sites and applications their children use, and asked all students to consider how a post may be perceived before putting something online.