Words can’t begin to describe the reactions a parent might have when they fear their child is in danger. Knowing their teen’s name might be included on a “hit list” can inspire panic, chaos, or preemptive action.
Some parents have had to come to terms with that anxiety after a list was written by a student that deputies say wasn’t a “troublemaker.” He was a student that wasn’t on the radar of staff or police, until now.
On Tuesday, May 9, a resource officer at Forest Hills High School found knives, a bottle of flammable liquid, fireworks, and a dismantled shotgun shell in a student’s backpack. They also found a hit list with the names of around 12 students.
“That’s the scary thing, too. Nobody at this point knows why, why he picked out the students that he chose,” said one mother. Her son is a freshman at the school in Union County, North Carolina.
Local authorities were tipped off about the plot thanks to Thunder Bay Police Service in Canada. Within 65 minutes of receiving the tip, they were able to track down the student and find the weapons.
The student is under the age of 16, so his identity is not being released by police. Tony Underwood with the Union County Sheriff’s Office said, “He certainly had the tools necessary to carry out what he was intending to do.”
The alert from Canadian authorities came after a girl in Canada saw the suspect post about his plans in a chat room. According to investigators, he thought he was having a private conversation and wasn’t looking for attention.
“When we spoke to him, he was very calm,” said Deputy A.J. Wallace. Because of the ongoing investigation, deputies wouldn’t release specifics but noted the suspect also had a detailed journal.
“My heart dropped to my feet,” said parent Stephanie Deason, who was notified through the school district’s emergency alert system. “It’s troubling to know that your kids can come to school and not be safe.”
In this case, however, authorities and school officials were able to thwart a possible mass murder because of their swift actions. “The deputies and specifically the School Resource Officer, along with Union County Public Schools did an outstanding job of quickly identifying the student involved with the chat room discussions and finding the weapons before a tragedy happened,” said Sheriff Eddie Cathey.
This is a perfect example of why we should take all threats seriously and teach our children to report suspicious behaviors they see or read online. We’re so thankful to the state investigators and the authorities that worked together to protect the children of Forest Hills High School from potential tragedy.