Abraham Mahshie – Contributing Writer
Making threats of a mass school shooting is no laughing matter. As a matter of fact, it’s a Class H Felony. Having a gun and repeating the threats makes the possibility of violence feel even closer. So, when a child told a parent of threats overheard Thursday afternoon at Franklin High School, the parent immediately called the Sheriff’s Department. “Whether he meant it or not, you cannot say those things because it will be treated as if he meant it,” said Sheriff Robert Holland about the response to the threats made by a 16-year-old Franklin High School student which first became known to law enforcement at approximately 10:11 p.m. Thursday. Criminal and juvenile unit detectives immediately began working the case and were at the home of the suspect and his parents in Franklin by midnight to question the minor and his father. At Franklin High School at about 2 p.m. Thursday, the student reportedly said, “I swear to god I’m going to shoot this place up,” and asked another student’s help in assembling an AR-15 rifle. The threats were not reported to school faculty, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Holland also said they weren’t the first threats from the student. “There have been multiple statements,” he said. “There have been other random statements made that some people just kind of brushed off and didn’t take seriously.” The father at first said there was no gun on the property, then said an AR-15 was wrapped in a blanket in the basement. It was not. The weapon was found in an inoperable vehicle on the property. The student admitted to detectives that he had made the threats and was arrested and put in handcuffs for making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property. The minor was released on a $10,000 bail the following morning. Sheriff Holland said the department added extra security to Franklin High School Friday, not for any perceived threat, but to provide reassurance to faculty and students. Further interviews were also conducted at the school. The school shooting threat was not the first in Macon County, said Holland, noting the department handled one or two such cases in 2018 and takes no chances in the severity and immediacy of its response. “Throughout my career we’ve had kids make threats like this before, but in today’s time, the way that things are today, you have to take those cases seriously,” he said. “Kids threaten one another, kids say things they don’t mean all the time, but they need to understand the repercussions.” Sheriff Holland said law enforcement is charged with protecting the community, not ruining the lives of minors, and the department will make mental health and other resources available to the student and his family to help address the root causes of his behavior. “We need to get to the bottom of why he’s saying these things,” said Sheriff Holland. The suspect is scheduled to appear before a judge at the Macon County District Court on April 23.