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High school shooting threat spurs heavy police presence

Schools still open, administration and law enforcement say not a credible threat


February 23, 2018

Local police officers have been spread to all Havre public schools today to watch and guard after a threat was found Thursday in a Havre High bathroom.

Despite the threat, and the seriousness with which the school administration and local law enforcement is taking it, school is in session today.

“Obviously, there was a threat,” School District Superintendent Andy Carlson said this morning, adding, “We would not hold school if we had a more credible threat.”

Carlson would not say why the threat is not credible enough to cancel school, only that officers have been investigating, and they continue to do so.

Officers from the Havre City Police Department, as well as the Hill County Sheriff’s Office, have been stationed at all the schools.

“There’s a very large police presence at school,” Carlson said.

Havre Police Chief Gabe Matosich said this morning that his department, with help from Sheriff’s Office deputies, have been working diligently on the investigation. In addition to having the entire day shift spread out, there were still some night shift officers working as of 10:15 a.m.

An announcement posted on the schools’ website Thursday says, “At approximately 3:00 on Thursday, February 22nd it was reported to the Havre High School administration that a threat was written on the back of a bathroom stall door in the men’s west restroom. The threat indicated that there would be a school shooting on February 23, 2018.”

Carlson would not divulge details about the written threat, but he did say it was first reported by a Havre High student. The Havre Police Department dispatch log shows that Thursday at 3 p.m. school resource officer Joshua Holt instigated an investigation into suspicious activity.

District administrators are cooperating with the Havre Police Department in the investigation, Carlson said.

“Video surveillance, interviews, and staff member collaboration has been vital in determining the credibility of this threat,” the announcement says.

Matosich said investigators are interviewing people and following the investigation wherever it leads.

St. Jude Thaddeus School Principal Jolene Christensen said this morning the private school has always been proactive and erred on the side of caution and, aside from informing their educators of the threat made at Havre High School, they haven’t needed to change anything.

Local social media such as “Havre’s Questions, Comments, & Concerns,” indicate some parents are keeping their children home today because of fear for their safety.

Carlson said it was too early to tell what attendance is today, but, he added, he gets it.

“I’m a parent, too — it’s not a joke,” Carlson said.

“It’s a mean, callous act. It preys upon people’s feelings. It’s frustrating,” Carlson added. “If people are keeping their kids at home, I get it.”

The threat comes just nine days after a gunman killed 17 students and educators at the Parkland, Florida, school in Feb. 14, and two days after a group of students and parents gathered at the White House for a listening session on school safety and gun control.

Copycat threats are not uncommon following shootings like the one in Florida, Matosich said. The threats, he added, are statewide. Multiple Montana school district are investigating similar threats today made in their districts over the week.

Someone who makes threats or is involved in a similar act, a Havre Police Department press release says, can be convicted of intimidation and be imprisoned for up to 10 years and be fined up to $50,000.

Anyone who has information about the threat made Thursday is asked call the Havre Police Department at 265-4361 or the Sheriff’s Office at 265-2512.

Before returning to school for the 2017-2018 year, all Havre Public School employees learned in August new safety protocols meant to help handle armed intruders, bomb threats and other similar possible dangers.

School resource Officer Josh Holt gave the  Standard Response Protocol presentations three times within two days. Holt had said that shootings can happen anywhere, and that Havre is in no way immune from such a tragic incident.

Despite the training, Carlson pointed out this morning, school employees are educators, and law enforcement is law enforcement.

Planned activities will continue tonight unless there is reason to change anything.

The Havre Wrestling Club Board voted this morning to still hold the Little Guy Wrestling Tournament at 5:30 p.m. at Havre High School.


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