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SMPD: Phony shooting threat strains resources

Posted at 6:52 PM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-21 23:52:18-05

Santa Maria Police say a call threatening a school shooting at Battles Elementary School was not credible.

Investigators say a middle school boy called Battles Elementary on Thursday, mentioning a school shooting.

“Working with the school administration, we were able to track down that young man this morning and sit down and have a conversation with him and his family,” said Lt. Russell Mengel, with Santa Maria Police Department.

Lt. Mengel says they determined there was no threat to the school at any time, but they pushed resources to Battles Elementary School anyway because of the panic and misinformation they saw online.

“Someone heard bits and pieces of what occurred and it did create some concern. It frustrated us this morning because we would have liked to assign resources to address other issues but had to pull them off to assure them that there was not an immediate threat,” Lt. Mengel added.

Parents were notified of the threat Thursday night. Saku Desilva, the mother of a 5th grader at Battles Elementary School, says she received a text message from the school’s principal around 9 p.m.

Saku says it’s not the first time they’ve had to wonder whether a threat to the school was credible. She remembers several other social media threats in recent months, and her daughter now knows the drill.

“She said, Mom, it’s fine. The police are going to be patrolling the campus like they always do if there’s a threat,” Desilva said.

Desilva says open communication by the school administration helped bring peace of mind.

“I was kind of nervous but I brought her in, I called the school later on, but everything seemed under control,” Desilva said.

Police say school threats are often a ploy to get attention. They argue that propagating the threat only helps their cause. Officials say they’re going to assess how public they make these investigations in the future.

The boy who made the calls will not face any punishment from law enforcement. Police say the threats were not ‘criminal in nature.’