ARLINGTON — Police and school officials in Arlington sent a message Wednesday to reassure parents that local schools take threats seriously against students, in the aftermath of a gym teacher’s arrest for allegedly saying he was going to murder children.
Parents in the district had criticized the school’s response to the threat. Meanwhile, city officials on Wednesday released a new timeline of events.
Another teacher reported that Andrew Thomas Medley, 52, made the comment to him Thursday near the end of the school day in the gymnasium of Presidents Elementary School.
“I am going to murder everyone in the building,” he said, according to police reports. “Scratch that, I am going to murder everyone’s children in the building and make them watch.”
Medley made the statement because he had gotten trouble for an unrelated sexual comment about girls, court papers say.
Initially, city officials said school staff tried to call a school resource officer last week, but the call went nowhere because he was out of the area.
The new timeline released by the city showed police had, in fact, been contacted by Friday afternoon, sometime before administrators had a meeting to ban Medley from campus.
Staff had called a non-emergency line, and reached officers who were asked to be in the area in case the meeting went bad, said Kristin Banfield, a spokeswoman for the city. The meeting went OK. Medley was put on administrative leave and told not to return to campus until further notice. He turned in his key card. Staff kept in touch with him over the weekend to schedule another meeting.
On Monday morning, Medley’s spouse called to say that he’d left their home in Bellingham and that he was going to Arlington, Banfield said. The school went into a modified lockdown for the rest of the day, meaning front doors became the only entry point for the school. Classes went on as usual.
Police found Medley on Monday, not in Arlington, but at his home in Bellingham. He denied making a threat to harm anyone, though he admitted to wishing a “slow and painful death” for unnamed people, according to police. He was arrested for investigation of felony threats, booked into jail and held on $10,000 bail.
In court, a public defender said Medley has been going through a difficult divorce.
As a teacher, he had no prior record of discipline that reached the state level, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. A background check by Arlington police showed no criminal record before his arrest Monday.
Many parents learned of the lockdown, the threats and the arrest as details trickled out in the news media.
Kirk LeDoux, a real estate broker and a commercial pilot, has one son that attended Presidents Elementary School last year, and a daughter who starts school next year.
“I was totally and completely astounded that they let our teachers and kids go to school,” he said, “based on what’s happened recently, with Marysville Pilchuck,” a reference to a high school shooting a few miles south of Arlington that left five dead in 2014.
LeDoux believes staff should have called 911 sooner, and that it wasn’t taken seriously enough.
“You can’t put yourself in the mind of somebody else,” he said. “All you know is what the threat is.”
In the prepared statement, Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said he had every confidence in the safety of the school district. His own children attend Arlington schools, he said.
“The district and the police department are always looking for ways to improve safety,” he said in the statement, “and we will continue to work together to make sure students and staff are safe.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; email@example.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.