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Teen charged with making e-mail threat

December 01, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI and MARLO BARNHARTs

Hagerstown City Police arrested a 16-year-old student Tuesday after tracing threatening e-mail messages sent to South Hagerstown High School back to the juvenile.

Lt. Gary Spielman said the male ninth-grade student allegedly sent two threatening messages on Nov. 4.

With the aid of school staff and the Maryland State Police computer crimes unit, the investigation led to the teen's residence just outside the City of Hagerstown.

Armed with a search and seizure warrant, police searched the residence from which the message came and recovered computer equipment, police said.

Because of the nature of the threats, the home was searched for weapons but none were found.

"We take these things very seriously and thoroughly investigate," he said.

The first message was a general threat to harm everyone at the school, said Spielman.

The second message, which contained a bomb threat, was diverted to the University of Maryland because the e-mail address was incomplete, said Spielman.

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The University of Maryland serves as a clearing house for general messages sent to the Washington County Board of Education, he said.

He said the second message had enough references to South Hagerstown High School so that University of Maryland officials could tell who was supposed to receive it.

It took police a few weeks to trace the messages because it is a complicated process, Spielman said.

The messages were a plea for attention, he said.

"I don't think the potential for violence was there - there was no intention to follow through with the threats," said Spielman.

The teenager likely committed the crime on a bet, said South Hagerstown High School Principal Michael Shockey.

Shockey said the juvenile has "tremendous remorse" and has not been a discipline problem in the past.

"I think he felt sick the second he pushed the send button," he said.

The teenager was charged with disturbing activities at school, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and/or six months in prison; and molesting and/or threatening students/bomb threat, a felony crime punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and/or 10 years in prison.

He was released to family members.

Police increased security at the school as a precautionary measure after receiving the messages. Cruisers were positioned at the front and rear of the school and police personnel were inside the school on Nov. 5.

Those measures taken by police and school officials came as a result of incidents of violence in schools such as in Columbine, Colo., police said.

Juveniles can be removed from their homes and institutionalized for delinquent acts such as making bomb threats.

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