GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI) – School shooting threats made on social media and through text messages in north Mississippi have shaken students, educators, and law enforcement.
Arrests have been made. Students as young as 12 have been charged.
Threats of terrorism are something area law enforcement takes very seriously.
Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney said, so far, he hasn’t had to put any of his schools on lockdown due to threats of terrorism.
However, he is ready to prosecute anyone who calls in a threat — even if it’s a child.
“These people have to understand, this is not a joke. We are not going to take it as a joke. We’re going to do everything we can to find out who’s calling these threats in. With the technology today, we’re going to do that,” said Gladney.
Area Youth Court Prosecutor Mark Jackson said there’s a new state law regarding threats.
“They passed a law for the Mississippi Terroristic Threats Law. That is a felony offense if committed by someone that’s over eighteen. If an adult commits that, it’s a zero to ten-year felony. As a juvenile, however, what they would do is come to youth court, and we would determine whether or not they’ve committed what we call a delinquent act,” said Jackson.
Jackson said juveniles who break this law are usually not tried as adults, but they still face a series of consequences.
“The youth court judge has the option to give them probation, but they can also give them detention here in the Lowndes County Detention Center. A huge amount of restitution that’s owed involving law enforcement having to come out and search, close the school down for a day. I know that is something that sometimes has even more deterrent value than even spending a week or two in detention. You’ve got to pay back thousands and thousands of dollars to reimburse the county for having to do this investigation,” said Jackson.
Jackson and Gladney said most of the time, kids do not understand the severity of their actions.
“Frequently, the defense is ‘I was never going to do anything,’ or ‘I didn’t have a bomb,’ or ‘I didn’t have a way to carry this out,'” said Jackson.
“Don’t let your friends talk you into doing stuff that you’re going to be sorry for later or that’s going to cost your parents a lot of money to get you out of it,” said Gladney.
If you or anyone you know receives word of a threat, Gladney said sharing the information on Facebook should be the last thing you do.
“Make sure that law enforcement is notified. We’ll make sure the proper authorities are notified. Just be smart. Don’t do it,” said Gladney.
Jackson said usually the only way a minor would be tried as an adult in a situation like this is if they do indeed have the means carry out a threat, or if they have a long history with youth court.