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School threat arrest made in Artesia; Investigation continues into threats made in Roswell

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ARTESIA — It has been more than a week since police in Roswell and Artesia were called in to investigate threats at the two schools.

According to both agencies, officers were called in after threats were posted on social media regarding a shooting at the school that was going to take place on Feb. 23.

APD Commander Lindell Smith said a school resource officer made contact with several students that had passed the photo through social media.

He said a 13 year old was arrested and he said the accused took a screen shot of the photo and then sent it to their social media contacts.

He said a teacher in the Artesia Public Schools saw the photo and brought it to the attention of district leaders who then issued a delay to start schools.

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Kids who were already in class were taken to a safe place and, once the investigation ended regarding the threat, they were to be taken back to class.

He said the threat was later to be deemed non-credible.

Commander Smith said the teenager was charged with unlawful use of a telephone, misdemeanor upon first offense. The suspect was cited in the juvenile probation office system and was released to a guardian.

During a special school board meeting on Wendesday, Thad Phipps, assistant superintendent of operations in the district said based on the events of Feb. 23 the district was doing everything to ensure the safety of students and school personnel.

Phipps added that district leaders have taken steps to have a cell phone app in place to notify parents the next time an emergency situation occurrs.

“When something like this occurrs, we’ll utilize the district app,” he said.

Phipps added that Artesia Public Schools will use the school messenger system and notifications will also go to the APS website.

“There is an extensive response that will take place with the Artesia Police Department, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, State Police and FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center),” Phipps said.

“All of these organizations have an extensive plan if something happens so the response to that (is) not necessarily the protective side. What if something happens and there is a very intense response that is well coordinated that involves every agency in the county,” Phipps added.

He said it’s also important for parents to visit with their kids.

“Do not send things to social media. It’s causing more of this panic and is a problem with small children,” Phipps said.

“What we’re having is a lot of copycat situations and kids are not thinking,” he said.

Phipps said Artesia is ahead of the game when it comes to safety.

“In the last few weeks, RPD has investigated numerous cases of threats of harm, usually a shooting threat, being found written inside restrooms at Goddard and Roswell High Schools and also at the two middle schools in the city limits (Sierra and Mesa),” said Todd Wildermuth, RPD spokesperson. “The investigations are ongoing and officers have identified suspects in several of these instances. Charges are being developed and are pending in those cases.”

Wildermuth said students of all ages must come to realize the seriousness of making threats like these, whether they are written on a restroom wall or posted online or expressed through any other means.

“This is not a game. Such actions affect many people and prompt fear that this community should not be subjected to,” he said.

He added that RPD will always take every step necessary to protect the safety of students and staff at Roswell schools.

“We will always respond quickly and strongly to such situations and, working with the school district, will investigate them thoroughly with the intent of seeking strong consequences for those determined to be responsible for such thoughtless and inconsiderate acts,” Wildermuth said.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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