Investigators searching for suspects after series of threats at five Hamilton County schools

Investigators searching for suspects after series of threats at five Hamilton County schools

March 3rd, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

East Hamilton School is located at 2015 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road in Ooltewah.

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

POLL: Are local schools reacting appropriately to threats?

Three Hamilton County Schools received threats of violence Wednesday, just days following similar threats at two other schools.

East Ridge Middle School

East Ridge Middle School

A bomb threat was found written on the wall of East Ridge Middle School on Wednesday. At East Hamilton Middle- HighSchool, a threat was written on the bathroom wall. And a 16-year-old boy at Central High School was taken into custody after he brought a BB gun to school.

Matt Lea, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, said in a statement after the threat at East Hamilton that because of the seriousness of alarm caused by these types of threats, the perpetrators could face criminal charges.

On Tuesday, about 70 percent of Ooltewah High School's student body was absent from school after several threats of a shooting were found at the school.

And parents of students at Signal Mountain Middle/High voiced frustration Wednesday about how they were not informed for days about the shooting threat at the school early last week. The threat resulted in two boys being expelled from the school and charged in Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Regardless if Wednesday's threats were copycats, Hamilton County Schools Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade said all threats were taken seriously.

East Ridge Police and the Chattanooga Bomb Squad investigated a bomb threat written on the bathroom wall at East Ridge Middle School on Wednesday.

Police evacuated the classrooms as they worked with the bomb squad to clear the school. Students returned to their regular classes by early afternoon.

A threat was also found in the bathroom at East Hamilton School on Wednesday morning. Principal Gail Chuy alerted parents of the threat by voice message.

Chuy said a suspicious statement reading, "the school shall pay," was found on a bathroom wall.

"In light of recent similar incidents at other Hamilton County schools, we are investigating, and all appropriate procedures are in place," Chuy said in the message.

She assured parents that law enforcement is investigating and safety is the school's top priority.

Lea said there is no suspect yet in connection with the incident.

Also Wednesday, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said a 16-year-old student at Central High School brought a BB gun to school and was charged with possessing a weapon on school property.

The gun was discovered after another student alerted school resource officers about a suspicious post on social media, Lea said.

Once school administrators and authorities questioned the student who made the post, the weapon was located in his belongings, Lea said.

Normally, bringing a BB gun to school would not be a crime, but because the boy displayed the gun in a threatening manner or caused alarm he was charged, Lea added.

McDade did not return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon, but said earlier in the day that whenever a school receives a threat they contact local law enforcement and allow them to investigate.

"If the threat is found to be credible, action will be taken quickly to ensure the safety of all students and staff at the school," McDade wrote in an email.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.


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