Early the morning of Dec. 20 detectives from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s Major Crimes Division arrested a 16-year-old female student from Red Mountain High School after uncovering her plot to gun down her school mates and then kill herself, according to Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The school is at 7301 E. Brown Road in east Mesa.
(Update: Dr. Gerald Slemmer, principal at Red Mountain High School, penned a letter to students and parents and said, in part, "RMHS had already been reviewing security procedures, and in light of recent events are putting in place protocols to ensure an even greater level of safety and security for all students and staff." (See below for the entire letter.))
The girl’s threat was posted on a YouTube channel owned by a transgender community in Toronto, Canada. The owner of this channel contacted Toronto Police who, through investigative methods, tracked the poster, which ultimately turned out to be a teenage girl who lives in the area of Saguaro Lake, according to a press release. Toronto Police then contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and an investigation was started at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, MCSO said.
According to Sheriff Arpaio, detectives reacted quickly, and within three hours, using investigative techniques, were led to a home in Mesa. Sheriff’s Detectives went to the home and questioned the girl in the presence of her parents and arrested the 16-year-old female after she admitted to posting the threat.
In the post the 16-year-old alludes to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre saying she planned her attack well in advance of Fridays shooting.
The post, in parts reads, “I now literally have a plan of seriously hurting ... killing ... murdering people in my high school.”
The post continued on by saying “I WORK at the high school as a student teacher basically ... which is why no one can find out about me somewhat accidentally planning to blow up the school. (and yes ... it would be super easy ...).”
According to her post the 16-year-old is a student teacher at the high school and in her interview with sheriff’s detectives said she was scared because she thinks she may really carry out the plans detailed in the post, and “f@#king kill everyone,”MCSO said.
The 16-year-old also admitted to sheriff’s detectives that she had thought about the killings for a while, planning to “cut the wires to the security carts” on campus so as to slow down the response during an explosion, and shoot people from the other side of a fence, MCSO said.
When sheriff’s detectives entered the home this morning, they found three handguns including a semi-automatic .40 caliber, a .357 revolver, and a .22 revolver and seized two computers in the home to process for further evidence. The weapons were not seized but released to the girl’s father for safe-keeping, MCSO said.
In the interview by sheriff’s detectives of the girl’s parents both said their daughter has a history of mental health issues, has been seen by a psychiatrist, and had recently been inquiring about where the guns were being kept in the house. The father said he was alarmed by his daughter’s comments and took the additional safety precautions of placing trigger locks on each gun and safeguarding them in a gun safe.
“I have to commend my deputies it took them only three hours to get to the bottom of this and stopped anything before it could happen. We were very fortunate on this occasion to prevent another possible mass tragedy. It takes more than just law enforcement though. We need the active cooperation of parents, members of the community, and friends and neighbors to effectively stop these potential disasters before they happen,” Sheriff Arpaio said.
Sheriff Arpaio said the 16-year-old girl was arrested and booked into the custody of Maricopa County Juvenile Detention and is facing charges of one count of computer tampering and one count of threatening and intimidating.
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Letter penned by Red Mountain High School principal about incident
The following is a letter penned Dec. 21 by Dr. Gerald Slemmer, principal at Red Mountain High School, to RMHS families:
To: Red Mountain High School Families
From: Dr. Gerald Slemmer, Principal
Date: December 21, 2012
Re: Student Incident
On December 20, 2012, a Red Mountain High School student was taken into custody by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office based on an online post that indicated this student intended to harm herself and people at school. Law enforcement has given us regular updates on the status of the investigation, and continues to take steps to ensure the safety of our campus. During both days of final exams (Dec. 20-21), we experienced normal attendance rates and no security incidents on campus that would jeopardize the safety of our students.
School administration has received phone calls and emails requesting additional information about the incident. To provide an expedient response, below are the questions and answers that we are at liberty to share at this time.
1. When did the school become aware there was a serious threat to students?
A: There was never a direct threat to students. We were apprised of the situation after the individual was taken into custody at home by local law enforcement.
2. When did you decide to inform parents?
A: Parents were informed within minutes of confirming the critical facts of the case.
3. What is the school and school district doing to enhance security?
A: Student and staff safety is always our top priority. We have comprehensive security and emergency plans in place, such as visitor sign-in requirements, lockdown procedures, evacuation protocols and mass-communication systems. These procedures are reviewed regularly, and students and staff practice them every semester. Our efforts are coordinated closely with the Mesa Police Department and other law enforcement and municipal agencies. RMHS had already been reviewing security procedures, and in light of recent events are putting in place protocols to ensure an even greater level of safety and security for all students and staff.
4. What is going to happen with the young woman who threatened the school?
A: The student will be dealt with according to the policies of Mesa Public Schools and laws of the state of Arizona.
5. Why was school not cancelled and/or placed on lockdown?
A: There was no on-campus threat as the student was already in custody prior to the start of school. Authorities stated there was no threat on campus.