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Four Roswell students charged with school disruption

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Reporter’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct time of the RPD’s investigations, which took three weeks instead of two. Police also later stated the date of the first incident related to school threats was Feb. 14, rather than Feb. 22. 

Local investigators have identified three students responsible for making written threats of violence, as well as another who spread a false claim of a gunman being at their school.

According to a news release from the Roswell Police Department, the four students, which includes three boys ages 11, 12 and 13, and one girl age 17, have been criminally charged under a state law that prohibits anyone from willfully interfering with the educational process of a school by “committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit an act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions” of the school. The charge is a petty misdemeanor.

“Those students were issued citations requiring them to report to the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office, which is responsible for determining what course of action — court proceedings or a specialized program — will be pursued regarding each juvenile offender,” said RPD public information officer Todd Wildermuth. “During a recent period of about three weeks, the Roswell Police Department responded to and has investigated nine incidents in which threats of harm directed at school students and staff were discovered written on bathroom walls or elsewhere inside schools. In one additional incident, a student sent a text to her parent falsely claiming there was a person with a gun in the school.”

Police said while charges have resulted from some of these incidents, others remain under investigation.

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“Chaves County Crime Stoppers is offering a $500 reward for information leading to those responsible for these crimes being criminally charged in relation to these incidents,” Wildermuth said. “Anyone with information can remain anonymous while reporting what they know to Crime Stoppers at 1-888-594-TIPS(8477). People can also call the Roswell Police Department at 575-624-6770 to report information about these incidents.”

In each of these 10 incidents, police said they responded to the appropriate school on the day indicated in the written threat with many officers to act upon the immediate threat or monitor the location, students and staff.

“No actual physical harm came of any of the threats, but they created great concern and fear among students and parents,” Wildermuth said. “As a result, high numbers of students did not show up for school on various days indicated in the threats.”

Police said of the 10 incidents spanning from Feb. 14 to March 9, five occurred at Sierra Middle School, one at Mesa Middle School, two at Goddard High School, one at Roswell High School and one at University High School.

“Each of the nine written-threat incidents — one of which involved multiple threats being found at the same time — featured someone claiming he or she was going to carry out a shooting at the school or otherwise kill people at the school on a certain day,” Wildermuth explained. “Eight of those threat incidents involved threats being written on the wall of a bathroom stall. One threat was written on a desk.

“RPD wants to emphasize to students the seriousness of making threats like these, whether they are written on a restroom wall or posted online or expressed through any other means. Such actions affect many people and prompt fear this community should not be subjected to.

“RPD will always take every step necessary to protect the safety of students and staff at local schools. Officers will respond quickly and strongly to any threat situation and, working with the school district, will investigate each incident thoroughly with the intent of seeking strong consequences for those determined to be responsible for such thoughtless and inconsiderate acts.”