Police Respond Strongly To Two Local Threats

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In two separate incidents last week, Payson police and school officials were reminded just how close to home the massacre at Littleton's Columbine High School could hit.

The first incident led to the incarceration of a 13-year-old student at Rim Country Middle School, after police confirmed allegations that he had made threats against other students.

"There were actually threats to kill fellow classmates and family members," said Police Lt. Don Engler. "That's why it was taken as seriously as it was and charges were filed. The school also pursued discipline, from my understanding."

Engler said the threats had been made prior to the Colorado shootings, but in the wake of the tragedy, he said the students decided to report what the student had said.

"It had been ignored by the students that were the focus of the threats, until that incident occurred," Engler said.

Police have been inundated with local reports of threats ever since the April 20 massacre in Colorado by two students at the school.

"Most of them have turned up just being unfounded, meaning there was no substance to them," Engler said. "This one was not that case. We felt something definitely needed to be done about this boy."

Engler said the teen-ager attended a detention hearing Saturday, and was being held in custody at the juvenile detention center in Globe as of Monday.

The more recent and much more public incident took place over the weekend at the Payson High School prom. Last week, school officials caught wind of a rumor that there may be trouble at the prom Saturday night.

"Basically, the rumor was that somebody's relative was looking around on the Internet and found statistics on rural America," said PHS Dean of Students Dave Bradley. "The rumor was passed along with each person adding their own spin on it, and suddenly Payson becomes the next target."

Bradley said authorities tracked the rumor trail, and determined it to be unfounded. Rather to err on the side of caution, Bradley said the school district brought in a bomb dog from Scottsdale Friday evening and conducted a sweep of the high school campus.

"We made sure everything was totally secure and kept it secure until after the prom," he said. The school also broke out its rarely used metal detection wands Saturday and examined every person who entered the prom.

"We've had the wands for a couple of years," Bradley said. "This was the first big incident we've had to use them."

Bradley said those attending the prom were not offended by the extra security precaution.

"Most of the kids that came through the door made positive comments that we were taking the steps we took to keep it a safe atmosphere," he said. "A lot of the kids were fearful just because of what went on (in Colorado). We wanted them to feel safe."

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