RIVERDALE — Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) investigated a threat that three schools received via email on the first day back from winter break of a suspect allegedly threatening to shoot every person in the school and charged a 14-year-old student with the crime on Jan. 2.
The threat, addressed to Bladensburg High School, Parkdale High School and William Wirt Middle School, stated that the assailant would attack the schools on Jan. 2, 3 and 4 and shoot every student and staff member.
“No one will stop me,” the message said. “Not even the police either they die I die, or we all die, but no one will make it out alive. I’m going to have a 30 kill streak and more it will happen, and if you cancel school, I’ll wait till there is school but I’m getting my revenge one way, or another or I’ll just kill kids on the way to school makes it easier for me.”
The person continued saying that they had five-to-10 crew members to help carry out that plan that would include planting bombs in each school to blow it up.
It said they will be coming on the days listed at 1:00 p.m.
The message quickly circulated on social media and PGCPS released a statement saying that the threat did not seem credible.
“At current, the threat does not seem credible,” the statement said. “Providing students with a safe and orderly environment is our top priority, and all threats are taken seriously. As a precaution, there will be additional security at all three schools when classes resume Wednesday, January 2.”
PGPD Director of Media Relations Jennifer Donelan said that the Homeland Security Division of the Prince George’s County Police Department was in charge of the investigation into the threats. Halfway through the day they identified a suspect and determined that the person did not have the means to carry out their threats.
“At no point was the threat ever credible but we handled it as if it was a real thing, we added additional officers to all the schools,” she said.
Later that same day, PGPD identified the suspect as a 14-year-old female student and confirmed that the threat made against the three schools was never credible.
Her identity was withheld because she is a juvenile, but the department charged her with making threats of mass violence, electronic threats mailed to minor and, because one of the email threats contained obscene photos, obscene matter/possession with intent to distribute.
“We take every threat of violence seriously,” said PGPD Chief Hank Stawinski. “We identify the responsible individuals, and we hold them accountable under the law for their actions. We conducted a search of this juvenile’s home and we seized all of her computer equipment.”
He further stressed the importance of parents speaking to their children about the serious repercussions of making such threats and that the consequences for those actions are serious.
“There is no such thing as a prank to threaten mass violence. A threat is a threat and it will be dealt with accordingly based on the fear that they generate in the community. No one forwarded us the threat because they thought it was just a prank. They sent us these threats because they were truly scared.”
Although the investigation was ongoing at the start of the school day, Bladensburg High School, Parkdale High School and William Wirt Middle School were kept open for the day, but there was additional security stationed at each school, and the PGPD said that there were “a substantial allotment of resources dedicated to making sure our county’s students were safe.”
According to PGCPS Public Information Officer John White, in addition to the extra security at these three schools, the school system informed the parents and guardians of the situation the night before.
“We work with our law enforcement partners depending on the threat and what they can gather,” he said. “We cooperate with our partners to try to identify the threat and any credibility around the threat.”
This email was the only message sent at this time, however, PGCPS has received similar threats in the past, White said.
“Periodically we’ll find social media threats, and we always handle them in a serious manner and investigate them.”
Despite the lingering threat over the schools throughout the course of the day, there were mixed feelings among the students.
“Yeah I wasn’t really worried about it,” said Marco Herrara, an 11th grader at Parkdale High School. “This school has had many threats and it just happens all the time. For me, I just got used to it.”
Leslie Velasquez Gomez, a ninth grader also at Parkdale, said she was not bothered by the threat either but felt that it might have been a good idea to close school for the day just to be safe.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel anything because they put a specific time and if you’re going to put a specific time then people are going to just get ready before that time, so they know when to get prepared for the most part,” she said.
PGCPS Interim CEO Monica Goldson weighed in on the situation in a statement after the PGPD found the suspect thanking the schools and the PGPD for their cooperation throughout the day as well as urging parents to speak to their children about the severity of making false threats of violence.
“Prince George’s County Public Schools takes any threat against students, schools and employees seriously,” Goldson said in a statement following the incident. “Any student who threatens violence against a school can face expulsion and criminal charges.”
Bladensburg High School came under investigation again on Monday, Dec. 7 when the school was evacuated due to a bomb threat, according to the PGPD. They did not say whether it was in connection with the student’s previous threat.
“Police/Fire officials responded to the school. Nothing found,” the department tweeted that afternoon. “Our Homeland Security Division has the case and is working to identify the subject who made the threat.”