Student arrested in online threats in Granite Falls

GRANITE FALLS — The sense of relief in classrooms and hallways at Granite Falls High School was palpable Friday morning, hours after police arrested a student suspected of making a series of anonymous online threats against his classmates.

Granite Falls police arrested the boy, 17, after serving a search warrant Thursday night in the 200 block of S. Indiana Avenue. The high school junior made his first appearance in Snohomish County Juvenile Court on Friday morning.

He allegedly confessed to threatening violence against specific students, the high school student body and school staff since Dec. 15. Although he allegedly named individual students, there was no indication he was targeting any specific groups, Granite Falls School District Superintendent Linda Hall said.

Among other things, he threatened to detonate a bomb at the high school.

“He did not say why” he made the threats, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. Granite Falls recently signed a contract to have the sheriff’s office run the police department, beginning March 1. The agencies are working closely together in the interim.

The investigation involved Granite Falls police, sheriff’s deputies and the FBI. There were no signs of weapons, bombs or bomb-making materials at the boy’s home, Ireton said.

All of the threats were made via Ask.FM, a social networking web site based in Latvia. It allows users to anonymously post a question or statement.

The teen was booked into the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett for investigation of cyberstalking and felony harassment. A judge Friday morning found there was probable cause to hold him.

If released on bail, he’s prohibited from accessing social media or contacting the people he allegedly threatened.

The district plans to expel the student once he is released from juvenile jail.

Hall said she believes many people were surprised that the boy could be involved in making such threats.

“You have to understand Granite Falls is a close, tight-knit community,” she said.

District officials praised the student who initially brought the online threats to the attention of high school staff in mid-December.

Working with sheriff’s detectives, Granite Falls police were able to establish probable cause for arrest by tracing the online postings back to the location where the search warrant was served, officials said.

Police were turned down when they initially contacted the company in Latvia, a northern European country bordering Russia. That’s when the FBI was contacted, said Don Lauer, a Granite Falls police officer who recently served as acting chief.

The FBI worked with law officers in Latvia and the information developed reportedly led to the boy’s doorstep.

News spread quickly at Granite Falls High School. Most students knew of the arrest before or shortly after arriving at school Friday, officials said.

“The air of the school is so much more relaxed,” Lauer said.

School officials tightened security after the first threats were made.

Information for high school students and their families will be posted on the school district website.

No additional arrests are expected.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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