The social media threat of violence at Northwest High School on Friday morning has disturbed a community already on edge after a Germantown student brought a gun into Clarksburg High School the day before, and the nation continues to come to grips with a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in which 17 people were killed.
5th District – Germantown Commander Capt. Mark Plazinski told the Germantown Pulse that his officers and detectives are investigating this incident and following up on all threats.
“It is an active investigation,” said Plazinski. “We take all threats as credible. At this point, there is nothing to indicate that there is anything behind the threat. There are extra police deployed to the school today. The School Resource Officer is at the school, and the threat is actively being investigated by our detectives.”
Northwest Principal Jimmy D’Andrea sent an email home to parents at 7:15 am Friday morning saying “police are currently investigating an online threat directed toward Northwest High School. Early this morning a student called the police to report a posting on social media warning students not to come to Northwest High School today. At this time the police do not have any credible information to support the validity of this threat.”
Capt. Plazinksi said the threat came through Snapchat social media app and the post has been reposted multiple times. “We are asking that if anybody gets one of these original posts, please do not repost it but rather contact the police so we can attempt to find out who the originator was,” said Plazinski.
“A lot of the threats have been second-hand because of people reposting the same original threat which they received through SnapChat,” he said. He urged students and parents, “Do not repost the threat. We understand that people are trying to be helpful, but they are using social media in a way that makes it worse, because instead of dealing with one or two people who received the original threat, now investigators must look into each person as if they are the number one person.”
To further muddy the waters, according to the Anne Arundel County Police Department there has been a threatening Snapchat photo/message is being circulated throughout their county. According to Anne Arundel County Police, “This message originated in South Carolina & has spread through social media all across the United States. There is NO THREAT to any of our schools.”
Capt. Plazinski could not say if this message was the same threat that was circulating among Northwest students but added, “This is why if anyone sees a threat, they should tell a trusted adult and contact the police. Do not repost or forward. It makes it very difficult and we end up having to investigate multiple incidents of the same threat.”
He also said that this type of investigation is staffing intensive. “If it is a prank, this prank occupies not only officers in our investigative sections, but also officers in our patrol sections and those officers clearly could be doing better things for the community — if it is a prank.”
During the always crowded drop-off at 7:30 am Friday morning at least three marked police patrol cars could be seen in front of the school on Richter Farm Road as the school’s 2,400 students made their way into class.
The reports of a threat to Northwest came just a few hours after 18-year-old Alwin Chen of Germantown, who is a student at Clarksburg High School was arrested and charged with possessing a loaded firearm at Clarksburg High School. Police say Chen had a loaded 9mm handgun.
Detectives continue to work to gather information and collect evidence to include conducting a search of Chen’s residence and researching and confirming the ownership and purchasing history of the handgun. Chen’s motive for bringing a gun to school also remains under investigation, according to police.
Top: Students hurry past a number of MCPD patrol cars during drop off at Northwest High School Friday morning. Police say there will be an increased presence at the school all day.
Next: Parents dropping their students off at Northwest High School Friday morning after a social media threat to the school was reported overnight.
Next: The threat came over the SnapChat social media app.
Next: Capt. Mark Plazinski addressing concerned parents at Clarksburg High School Thursday night.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.