Threatening messages drawn on the walls of Hoquiam Middle School, apparently directed at teacher Robert P. McElliott, and prompting a lockdown at the school, were written by McElliott himself, according to Hoquiam Municipal Court documents.
An investigation by the Hoquiam Police Department, including viewing surveillance video, indicated McElliott, 59, of Hoquiam, was the person who wrote “Mceliot is a dead mon” on a door of the middle school gym in early November, according to court documents.
Similar written threats were reported at the school in February 2017 and October 2018.
According to a motion for summons filed by Hoquiam City Attorney Steve Johnson, Hoquiam Police were called to the school Nov. 5, where a school district custodian showed investigators the threatening message.
Later that day, middle school Principal Jason Ihde called investigators and said he had reviewed surveillance video and “found a possible suspect and it appeared to be (McElliott) himself who had written the ‘threat’ on the gym door,” the court motion reads.
Hoquiam School Superintendent Dr. Mike Villarreal said McElliott has been on paid administrative leave since Nov. 6. The district has proposed a resignation agreement to McElliot’s representatives from the teachers union. If it is not accepted, the district will initiate the hearing process required under state law to terminate his contract.
According to court documents, the video shows McElliott facing the door of the gym where the message was found. “He stands there for about one minute,” according to charging documents. “He does not appear to be reacting to the ‘threat.’ After ‘blowing up’ the video, it appears that the Defendant’s arm was moving as if he is writing while he was standing facing the door.”
Investigators were told that when the video camera was installed at the gym after the previous threatening messages were discovered, the school staff, including McElliott, was told “that it would only capture up to the main entry doors,” according to court documents. “In actuality, the camera was adjusted so that it would pick up the majority of the gym, including where the ‘threat’ was written. When the Defendant was walking away from the door where the ‘threat’ was written, he seemed to be avoiding the area where he believed the camera view would reach.”
Court documents indicate McElliott walked “part of the way across the gym and then makes a 90-degree turn and heads toward the door that is opposite from where the ‘threat’ was written. The Defendant then walks back across the gym to the door where the ‘threat’ was written. He pauses at the door for a very short time and then walks out the door to ‘report’ the ‘threat’ to other staff.”
When investigators questioned McElliott at his residence after viewing the video, “The actions that he described were not consistent with what was shown on the video footage,” according to court documents.
McElliott was charged with causing unnecessary emergency response and making a false statement to a public servant. Johnson said the misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges carry a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, to be determined by the judge at sentencing if he is found guilty.
According to court records, McElliott failed to appear at a Dec. 13 court appointment and was taken into custody for about 20 minutes before he was released. He has a pretrial conference scheduled for Tuesday, when a trial date will be set, unless he chooses to plea or moves for a continuance, according to Johnson.
This story originally appeared in The Daily World, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.