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'Every single hour, we're getting another call.' Copycat threats pour into MI schools

Dozens of schools close following flood of threats
Posted at 5:37 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 18:21:27-05

(WXYZ) — In the hours after Tuesday’s unspeakable shooting spree in Oxford, threats began to pour in targeting others schools all over Michigan.

Today, more than a dozen districts canceled classes because of copycat threats made through social media, encrypted apps or on school walls.

“At this point I’m aware of over 60 schools that have been closed because of threatening behavior,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Thursday. “It’s overrunning our resources to investigate these false threats.”

Today, attorneys who’ve represented students behind copycat threats say prosecutors weren’t interested in making deals before Tuesday’s massacre—and expect they will be even more aggressive going forward.

“The prosecutor’s office, and rightfully so, was taking them very seriously,” said juvenile defense attorney Shannon Smith. “To be honest with you, we’ve had cases where we could not resolve them with plea negotiations.”

Smith said cases are usually rare, but often surge following high-profile attacks like the Parkland shooting in 2018.

“We represented one young lady who actually came to us in jail already,” Smith said. "She simply made a very vague statement about wanting to blow up the school.”

The student was prosecuted, Smith said, and placed on probation for a year.

“It was a lot of trouble,” she said, “it was not a slap on the hand by any means.”

Even if the threats are made by minors, prosecutors have proceeded with felony charges, most often: making a false report or threat of terrorism—a 20 year felony.

Students are sometimes expelled, and almost always walk away with a record that follows them.

In Macomb County, Prosecutor Pete Lucido’s office has been flooded with reports of school threats.

“Every single hour, on the hour, we’re getting another call from a family member or someone saying my kid was threatened at school,” Lucido said.

Toda in Sterling Heights, a girl was arrested after saying she’d shoot up Stevenson High School. Another threat was made against a junior high in the district.

“They’re going out every day now for these threats, and it’s unfortunate,” Lucido said. “But we’re wasting the valuable tools of law enforcement for the purposes of going out there. Some of these are fishing expeditions, but what if they’re true?"

It’s a question being asked by parents everywhere today, even Shannon Smith, whose children’s school was on the receiving end of threats this morning, too.

“It’s likely there’s nothing behind these threats, but as a mom, I just couldn’t (take the chance). I took my kids back home, they’re going to be out of school tomorrow. We’ll try again next week.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.