Orem Police Chief warns students, parents of consequences for school threats

Orem Police Chief Gary Giles is shown in an image from a video on the department's Facebook page.

OREM, Utah, May 3, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Orem Police Chief Gary Giles called a news conference Friday to talk about five threats of school violence investigated by his officers in the past week.

Giles said to parents and teachers to understand that making such threats is a crime, not a harmless prank, and that crimes will be prosecuted.

“We had one where some guns were involved in the picture, and I believe it said something to the effect, ‘Don’t go to school tomorrow,'” Giles said. “There was no individual school that was necessarily posted on that, but in posting that, the insinuation would be, in today’s age, would be there’s going to be a school shooting.

“And that then spreads just like wildfire. It gets out there, then we’ll get kids that will share it, we’ll get parents that will share it … and we get a panic.”

That threat came from a 15-year-old student at Lakeridge Junior High. He has been booked into a juvenile detention center.

Officials work to track down all posters, Giles said.

“It doesn’t have to be a threat that’s actually carried out, and it doesn’t have to be a crime that could be carried out,” he said. “A lot of times people say, ‘It’s just a fake gun.’ ‘It was just a BB gun.’ One thing they need to know is that threat can even be implied.”

The poster could be charged with threat of violence or threat of terrorism, Giles said. Charges could be for a misdemeanor or a felony, and the excuse that it was all a joke won’t make any difference, he said.

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“We take them all very seriously. We’re not going to dismiss it as a joke. We are going to track it down. We are going to find out where it came from and we are going to take action when we can.”

Giles also said that when officials have probable cause to charge someone, “we will always charge them.”

In the past, parents and neighbors have told officers the suspect is a good kid who has never been in trouble, goes to church and participates in sports, Giles said.

“Think about how often we hear that after the fact,” he asked, speaking of local, national and international cases of mass shootings.

In addition, Giles said, Orem will enforce a new procedure: It will seek reimbursement for costs incurred in the investigation of threats of violence or terrorism, allowed by state code, he said.

“I want parents and kids to understand this isn’t funny,” he said. “This is actually something very serious.”

Giles also asked children and parents not to share threatening posts with abandon, spreading panic.

“Get ahold of the police department,” he said. “Let us know. Don’t cause panic among everybody. Let us be the ones to determine what that case may be. Maybe we can get ahold of that person very quickly, and get them either in detention or jail, rather than cause a huge panic. Let us be the ones to make that determination.”

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