Police Called to Warwick Middle School for Terroristic Threats

By on October 7, 2015

Police were summoned to the Warwick Middle School on Friday, Oct. 2, after school officials learned that a student was threatening to commit acts of violence. Based upon the investigation, a 13-year-old juvenile from Lititz was petitioned to juvenile court for one count of terroristic threats.

Lori Zimmerman, communications director for the school district, confirmed that a report of a threat was received Friday by Assistant Principal Michelle Harris, who in turn alerted the school security officer, David Harnischseger, and Lititz Borough Police.

The student in question was brought to the office and fully cooperated, said Zimmerman, adding that the student’s locker was searched and no weapons were found.

She pointed out that by law the school district cannot release details of the incident, but she did say that students at the school were not in danger. All families of those involved were contacted Friday afternoon, and a letter explaining the situation was sent Monday to all other middle school parents and guardians.

Zimmerman pointed out that the school district takes all threats seriously and will continue to do all in its power to ensure student safety.

“We also want to thank the Lititz police for their quick response and support,” she said.

Lititz Police Sgt. Kerry Nye said authorities did things by the book which is required policy when dealing with such incidents.

“We take any threat seriously,” he said. “We’re going to obviously prosecute the person (responsible).”

The event is one of many in a wave of similar incidents in the region and beyond, including teens who have been charged in threat incidents in the Donegal, Ephrata and Cocalico school districts within the last month.

Manheim Central has had its share of incidents as well. Manheim Central High School on Sept. 28 was evacuated for the second time in less than a week for a bomb threat.

Manheim Borough police said a bomb threat was found in the same stall in the same female bathroom on Sept. 23.

Caroline Duda, director of human resources for the Manheim Central School District, said students were evacuated in both incidents.

“All high school students and staff members were immediately and safely evacuated to the middle school auditorium,” she said. “Police conducted a thorough investigation of the high school and determined it is safe for students and staff members to return.”

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with a series of threats made at various locations, including several schools in Lancaster County in recent weeks.

Officials said the teen is charged with making 20 threats between Sept. 10 and 16, 13 of which involved local schools. Other incidents included threats to a police station and a residence.

The teen is accused of threats involving Lampeter-Strasburg High School, Conestoga Valley High School, Smoketown Elementary School and McCaskey High School, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Other area school district officials have weighed in on the problem and like Warwick will charge and adjudicate the individuals responsible.

“And in this case, terroristic threats was the appropriate charge,” Nye said Tuesday.

Kevin Peart, superintendent at Lampeter-Strasburg, said threats at that district have been resolved.

“We would like to extend our gratitude to the local law enforcement agencies that provided a consistent presence to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” he said.

Gerald Huesken, Conestoga Valley superintendent, echoed that sentiment and thanked local law enforcement for help resolving its issues.

“The Lancaster County District Attorney today announced charges against a juvenile in a series of threats made against Lancaster County schools, including Conestoga Valley High School and Smoketown Elementary in our district,” he said.

Huesken however noted that the public is still not very clear on what exactly inspired these actions or the details that led up to them.

“As the District Attorney states, the investigation is ongoing. Therefore, further comment on the case would not be appropriate. I wish to express our appreciation to the East Lampeter Township Police Department for their involvement in addressing these threats from the beginning,” he said. “Their ongoing teamwork and support is invaluable in helping to keep our students and staff safe. I also commend our students, staff and parents for their cooperation and understanding as we balanced the need for caution with instructional time.”

School officials say all threats must be taken seriously especially in light of last week’s deadly rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, in which a suspect killed nine people and apparently committed suicide after exchanging gunfire with officers.

Again, closer to home on Tuesday, Community College of Philadelphia was on high alert when a man threatened a student with a gun and then ran into a campus building.

By 11 a.m., the lockdown spread to the entire main campus as officials asked students to shelter in place. Fortunately, about two hours later, police apprehended a 17-year-old suspect in a classroom inside the business school.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer and social media editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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