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Threat, bullets at WHS prompt probes

October 02, 2004|By TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT

A threatening message found scribbled on a restroom wall last week at Williamsport High School and a bag containing 166 bullets that turned up in a locker at the school a day later have sparked investigations by the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Carol Mowen, public information officer for Washington County Public Schools, said Friday that a janitor discovered threatening graffiti on a boy's restroom wall on the night of Sept. 23.

Mowen would not disclose what the message said, only that it caused concern. The school contacted the Washington County Sheriff's Department after finding the message. Sgt. Mark Knight also would not disclose what the message stated, saying he didn't want to create "undue panic."

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On. Sept. 24, the day after the message was discovered, a bag of .22-caliber bullets was found in an unlocked student locker, Mowen said.

Mowen said the school system isn't sure whether the incidents are related.

Knight said a 17-year-old male student found the bag containing 166 bullets in his locker and informed the school's principal, which led to another police investigation.

After questioning the student, Knight said police don't think he was involved in either of the incidents.

"At this point, there is no reason to believe the boy who had the bullets in his locker is involved in any of this," Knight said. "We think possibly the bullets were planted in his locker."

Knight said police are continuing the investigations, but that the number of students in the school might make things difficult.

"It's kind of tough to interview 900 students," Knight said.

"We're no further ahead than we were the other day," he said.

School Principal John Davidson sent a letter home to parents on Thursday telling them about the incidents.

Davidson wrote that the school is taking the incidents seriously.

"The safety of our students and staff is our No. 1 priority, and we will continue to be vigilant," he wrote.

Knight said police thought Davidson's letter might cause "undue panic" among parents, but at the same time, he said parents have the right to know what's happening at school.

"We're getting flooded with calls now ..." Knight said.

Parent Nicki Silver-Turner said she pulled her 14-year-old son, Dylan, out of school Friday after Davidson's letter left her uneasy.

She said the letter was vague and that she would have liked to have known what kind of threat was found in the restroom.

"The principal should never have done that," she said. "It was enough of a letter just to scare you without giving you any information."

Mowen said Davidson sent the letter home to avoid the spread of misinformation about the incidents and to update them on the types of items that are not allowed in schools, such as knives, bullets, guns and drugs.

Knight said parents who might have heard anything about the incidents from their children may contact the Sheriff's Department at 240-313-2100.

"Any news is good news," he said.

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